SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) - Ransom is most often associated with the kidnapping of people. But not anymore. Today, paying a ransom to regain control of computer files is much more common according to cyber experts. The threat of ransomware is now a leading concern among cyber professionals.
"I heard it on the news and it scared me to death. I said, "Oh God," I don't want to go through that again," said one business owner.
The "it" he's referring to is ransomware, a virus that instantly encrypts files and locks up a computer denying access to data. It holds the information hostage until the owner pays a ransom.
"Just last week in Jackson County Georgia where there are 60,000 people they paid $400,000 to get their files back," said Rob Cheng, a cybersecurity expert.
Rob Cheng is a cybersecurity expert with more than 30 years experience. He's also former V-P at one time North Sioux City computer giant, Gateway. Cheng left the company in 1999 and now owns PC- Matic, a company offering antivirus software protecting against ransomware.
He says cyber thieves or kidnappers have moved past holding people's pictures and personal info hostage.
"Really the biggest issue now is with servers. Servers with lots of data on them," said Cheng.
Cheng says he knows of at least 2 local major manufacturers that have been held, hostage.
"The problem is that paying guarantees that it will happen more. It's happening a lot and that's why we're not seeing it much," said Cheng.
In fact, the organization Cyber Security Ventures estimates ransomware cases will total $6 trillion by 2021. That's the same amount as the economy of the United Kingdom. Much has changed in the computer world since the days of Gateway's cow spots but Cheng says his pride in what Gateway started has not.
"I don't know how many people I meet on the street that tell me my first computer was a Gateway. And I'm proud of that.
So how do you protect yourself? We've all heard it before. Change passwords. The cyber thieves only know passwords they plucked from the dark web.
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