Cyber Criminals Targeting Municipal Computer Systems

The Haverhill School Department is just the latest local victim of cyber-hackers, and ransomware. WBZ-TV's Bill Shields reports.

Video Transcript

- The FBI says there have been more than 90 reports of ransomware attacks in the New England area in the past year, including the most recent one on the Haverhill School District. WBZ's Bill Shields spoke with the FBI today about why these attacks are becoming so much more frequent.

BILL SHIELDS: The Haverhill School Department is just the latest victim of cyber criminals. It's called ransomware. Hackers get into a computer network and freeze it, then demand money to free it up.

DAVE FARRELL: And it basically encrypts your data on a computer and makes it unusable until you pay the ransom.

BILL SHIELDS: The hackers go after a municipal computer systems, schools, even police departments. They often operate out of Europe and not usually working for a government.

DAVE FARRELL: What is it that you have that's most valuable to you is what these ransomware actors are interested-- they're interested in a quick payday.

BILL SHIELDS: But companies and towns are fighting back with system upgrades and training for employees like they did here in Plymouth.

MELISSA ARRIGHI: That helps put all of us, the staff, every one of us in a better position to spot threats. It changes our behavior, so we're looking for that. We're not as trusting.

BILL SHIELDS: But the FBI says one of the keys to defeating the malware is to have duplicates of your data.

DAVE FARRELL: We're always preaching, the companies that have not had to pay the ransom in the past have backups. They back up their data.

BILL SHIELDS: And one of the newer targets of these hackers are health care systems-- hospitals and such-- because they have lots of money and lots of data. I'm Bill Shields, WBZ News.