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FBI: Cybercriminals Target Holidays To Make Millions On Ransomware Attacks

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The FBI said the holidays and weekends are prime time for cybercriminals to make millions on ransomware attacks.

More than 3,000 students and staff at Butler County Community College are the latest victims of an attack and the FBI expects even more.

"The last couple of years, we've seen an almost exponential growth in ransomware attacks," said FBI Supervisory Agent Jonathan Holmes. "We've also seen exponential growth in ransom demands."

Holmes said cybercriminals are now requesting tens of millions of dollars.

"They're the same individuals that might have been around for years that used to steal your credit card information," said Holmes. "They now recognize instead of stealing credits, I can make way more money by just hitting a business with ransomware and demanding a large amount of money."

According to a 2021 FBI report, from January to July, they received more than 2,000 ransomware complaints with more than $16 million in losses, which is a 20% increase in reported losses compared to the same time in 2020.

Holmes said this can be prevented.

"Make sure you're educating your employees to not click on any old links, to make sure they're not going on malicious websites," he said.

Holmes also said offline backups are key.

"Monitor your network to look for strange activity and make sure you're patching your system and keeping all your software up to date," said Holmes.

Holmes said if you do become a victim, don't pay the ransom. Instead, report it to the FBI right away, so they can investigate and bring the criminal to justice.

When it comes to online shopping, Holmes recommends customers do their research and make sure the website is secure.

He said don't click on suspicious links or just give personal information to anyone.

The FBI said two of the most prevalent scams are non-delivery and non-payment where a buyer pays for an item but never receives it or an item is shipped but the seller never receives payment.

They said in western Pennsylvania, there were 1,226 complaints and $1,391,861 in losses in 2020.

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