SAN ANTONIO — In just three weeks, cyber attacks have shut down meat processing plants, closed ferries in major travel arteries, and prompted drivers to panic-buy gasoline.
Andy Pilato, a cybersecurity expert with CNF Technologies in San Antonio, says ransomware attacks are becoming more common.
"Security never ends. It's constant and always changing," he said.
It's almost impossible to truly prepare for an attack, since hackers' technology is changing daily, Pilato says.
But their methodology is consistent.
"They can break into a lot of things without any issue at all," he said. "All they have to have is someone who clicks on a link in an email."
Pilato says humans are generally the weakest link in a cybersecurity network. Hackers email data-unlocking links disguised as messages from trusted senders.
"You can train 300 employees and all it takes is one to click on that link," Pilato said.
State actors, like Russia and China, are probably responsible for the last weeks' industry-halting attacks. They are not likely to attack individual computer users, Pilato says.
But the average person is susceptible to prank-style attacks or common scams.
"Every email you get, you need to look at who it really comes from," Pilato said. "Don't click on links. I could say it a hundred times."
He says computer-users should have antivirus software, keep their computers updated, and back up files daily to an external hard-drive.
Businesses should follow the same practices, and consider hiring an outside security firm to train employees and look for exploitable network holes.
The White House has asked businesses not to pay ransoms to retrieve stolen information, fearing that will incentivize more attacks. Pilato notes that's not always a feasible response for businesses that cannot survive without data.
He the importance of having tangible back-ups n the event a hacker puts a lock on data and demands a price for the key. With a back-up, a company or individual can simply delete their files and the virus, and start over.
"You've always got to be on your guard," he said.