Ransomware: WiFi allows thieves easy access inside your home - KCTV5

Ransomware: WiFi allows thieves easy access inside your home

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Thieves don’t need to break into your home to cost you thousands of dollars and, in some cases, compromise your personal information. (KCTV5) Thieves don’t need to break into your home to cost you thousands of dollars and, in some cases, compromise your personal information. (KCTV5)
FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -

Thieves don’t need to break into your home to cost you thousands of dollars and, in some cases, compromise your personal information.

It’s called ransomware, and, the FBI warns hackers are finding ways to steal thousands of dollars from families and businesses every year.

Darren Cauthon says his wife came across what turned out to be ransomware while downloading an app on their smart TV in Olathe.

“You turn it on, it looks official. It has the James Comey signature and everything, and it said, you know, ‘We found some bad content on your device and as a fee to the government, you have to pay $500’,” Cauthon said.

The fake FBI logo and warning letter that popped up on the flatscreen TV also locked up the entire device.

Cauthon, who also has a background in computer programing, was familiar with ransomware and knew this wasn’t legit, but he couldn’t figure out how to unlock the television and wasn’t getting help from the manufacturer. He sent the following tweet which received thousands of retweets.

Turns out, this is more common than many realize. The FBI posted the following warning on their website:

Hospitals, school districts, state and local governments, law enforcement agencies, small businesses, large businesses—these are just some of the entities impacted recently by ransomware, an insidious type of malware that encrypts, or locks, valuable digital files and demands a ransom to release them.

The inability to access the important data these kinds of organizations keep can be catastrophic in terms of the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, the disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and the potential harm to an organization’s reputation.

…Ransomware has been around for a few years, but during 2015, law enforcement saw an increase in these types of cyber attacks, particularly against organizations because the payoffs are higher these attacks in advance.

Part of the problem is the growing number of WiFi-connected devices that operate just like computers but don’t come with the same kind of standard security.

The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a report on what has been termed “The Internet of Things” -- the world of everything from your refrigerator to your car and security system can all be connected to the internet.

The FTC estimates, by the year 2020, there may be 50 billion wifi-connected devices.

“Oh, well somebody could hack my fridge and turn up the heat and spoil my food, it’s more complicated than that,” explained Tim Helming, a Seattle-based cybersecurity specialist. “They could potentially do more dangerous things than that with these smart devices than just mess with that device itself. It becomes a platform potentially for launching other attacks, for stealing credentials, things like that."

Once the hackers are in, they can lock up or manipulate anything online. The FBI warns hackers are getting more sophisticated and eye bigger targets included police departments, hospitals and hotels. 

On May 18, 2016, ransomware hackers hit Wichita’s Heart Hospital, forcing the hospital to pay a ransom, only to have hackers demand a second ransom. The hospital says patient records were taken but that patients’ care was not jeopardized.

Tips for protecting your home from ransomware hackers:

  • Change passwords frequently
  • Treat everything connected to the internet as you would a computer
  • Update software
  • Install security software when possible
  • Limit the number of “things” you have connected to the internet

Cauthon, finally found a way to unlock his television. The manufacturer called after his tweet went viral and helped him reset the TV. 

Cauthon says he’s learned his lesson, though. He’s not interested in using that television for anything more than just that, watching TV. WiFi-connection convenience, he says, isn’t worth the risk. 

Copyright 2017 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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