Pittsburgh FBI reports spike in ransomware attacks

PITTSBURGH — Ransomware attacks are on the rise nationwide and getting more expensive for businesses in Western Pennsylvania.

The FBI’s Pittsburgh office has two reports of local ransomware attacks so far this year totaling $390,000.

Special Agent Steve Lampo said it’s a big jump from previous years when ransoms were in the $10,000 to $50,000 range.

“The people behind these types of schemes are making a lot of money from it and it’s only making them bolder,” he stated.

Last month’s ransomware hack on Colonial Pipeline temporarily shut down gasoline delivery to nearly half of the East Coast, causing a rise in prices at the pump. Special Agent Lampo said the spike in attacks could be linked to how hackers are using the ransomware.

“These days we’re seeing ransomware as a service where someone will develop and market it to other criminals and rent it out to them for a cut of the profits,” explained Lampo.

To combat the rise, Lampo says the FBI developed a public-private partnership with critical infrastructure and utilities to make sure they are taking needed security steps.

The agency is also focusing on education and recommending organizations back up important files and data offline.

“Don’t pay,” explained Lampo. “If you’re in a position where you have no other recourse and your company goes under if you don’t pay, we understand that. But we would like to see more companies be in a position where they don’t have to pay and so education is our goal there.”

Lampo said this remains an underreported crime and encouraged anyone who falls victim to this to contact the FBI. On Tuesday, the agency announced it recovered more than half of the $4.4 million in cryptocurrency Colonial Pipeline paid hackers to regain access to the pipeline.