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'Don't pay the ransom': What Northeast Wisconsinites should do if faced with a ransomware attack

Posted at 12:52 PM, Jun 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-10 19:40:42-04

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) -- All it takes is one click; a click that could cost you or your company big money.

"If it’s more than $11 million, are you gonna pay the $11 million to get back on sooner?," NWTC Instructor of System Security Ryan Van Scyoc asked. "Probably. So that’s probably what’s gonna happen."

After beef supplier JBS fell victim to a cyberattack from Russian-speaking hackers nearly two weeks ago, the company announced Wednesday night it paid an $11 million ransom to mitigate any further damage. And experts say it could happen to anyone, but should you pay a ransom? Van Scyoc says 'no.'

"For your personal laptop, don’t pay the ransom," he said. "Make a backup."


According to the professor, if you have all your data stored offline, you don’t need to spend any cash. And if you don’t have it saved, you can go to a computer store and try to recover lost files.

"Even if I don’t have those backups, do I really need some of those vacations pictures?... probably not," Van Scyoc said. "So I don’t necessarily have to pay the ransom."

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UWGB professor Gaurav Bansal agrees. He says paying hackers only fuels the fire.

UWGB professor Gaurav Bansal agrees. He says paying hackers only fuels the fire.

"If we stop paying them as a society, we stop paying them, these attacks will dry out," Bansal said.

"Instead of negotiating with attackers, Bansal advises people to contact authorities or even call 911.

"What you can do as an individual if it happens to you, you can basically inform the local FBI office," Bansal said. "We have an FBI office in Green Bay."

While ransom attacks are on the rise, Bansal says Northeast Wisconsinites can rest easy. Companies with a lot to lose are at the highest risk.

Experts explain ransomware cyberattacks and how you can protect yourself from hackers

"If you have a backup already done, and if you can reset your laptop or your computer, you don’t have anything to lose," he said. "You don’t have to pay anything."

JBS says it spends over $200 million a year on its technology resources.

“This was a very difficult decision to make for our company and for me personally,” JBS USA CEO Andre Nogueira said in a statement. “However, we felt this decision had to be made to prevent any potential risk for our customers.”

Cyberattack on meat processing company JBS further strains supply chain

According to JBS, the 'vast majority' of the company's operations were back up and running at the time of the payment.

"In consultation with internal IT professionals and third-party cybersecurity experts, the company made the decision to mitigate any unforeseen issues related to the attack and ensure no data was exfiltrated," a Wednesday statement read.

Though experts say ransom cyberattacks don't often happen to individual people, there are some ways these local tech professionals say you can protect yourself.

This attack came after a May 7 hack against American oil system Colonial Pipeline. The U.S. Department of Justice held a press conference Monday and said much of Colonial's $4.4 million ransom has been recovered.

"The Department of Justice has found and recaptured the majority of the ransom Colonial paid to the Darkside network in the wake of last month's ransomware attack," DOJ Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said.