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You could be hacked like the pipeline cyberattack

Cybersecurity advice from Pima Community College
Posted at 7:40 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 22:40:24-04

TUCSON, Ariz (KGUN) — Your small business--or home personal computer could be at risk for the same sort of cyber attack that disabled a large pipeline company and disrupted fuel supplies along the East Coast.

KGUN 9 checked with the cyber security program at Pima Community College for advice on how you can protect yourself.

Hackers managed to infect the computer systems at Colonial Pipeline and disrupt delivery of gas, diesel and jet fuel from Houston to most of the east coast.

At the Pima Community College cyber security program, Will McCullen teaches students how to attack systems so they know how to defend them. He says the pipeline attack could have come through an e-mail disguised as company communications---something even a cautious person might think it’s safe to open.

The attack on the pipeline company is a type called ransomware. The software infection encrypts the company’s systems in a way that prevents the company from using them. If the company pays a ransom, the hackers may let the systems operate again or they may take the money and leave the system unusable. Hackers may also steal and circulate sensitive company information.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency joined with the FBI to release a warning bulletin on the ransomware attack.

Hackers don’t just hit the big companies. They flood the internet with bots---automated programs ready to attack any weakness they find.

McCullen says, “There is an army of information, literally armies that are out there trying to constantly hit routers and switches and infiltrate your own home network.”

To demonstrate, PCC posted an internet address as bait and hundreds of attacks rushed in to probe it. Most came from China but they could come for anywhere there’s a profit motive or a hostile government eager to stir up trouble.

McCullen says your best defense is to make sure you have the latest security updates, and get sign in codes to your phone on top of a strong password.

“It's all just like it with your home. If you can make it expensive and difficult for them to get in, they'll often pass by you and go to your neighbor.”