IU fights to stay ahead of global phishing attack


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WTHR) - Ransomware hackers have now infiltrated some 150 countries. Those nations that allow pirated software, like China, are getting hit the worst.

Indiana University is getting bombarded with the message from the hackers, but so far have managed to stay clean.

"It probably should come as no surprise that college campuses have been hit the hardest by this malware, but the good news here at IU is that they are prepared for it," said IU Vice President for Research Fred Cate, who also serves as a senior fellow at the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research.

College campuses are certainly a target-rich environment for hackers. There are 300,000 computers in use at any given time and that is not counting the students.

"You get a phishing message, you click on something and you get this pop-up that says, 'Oops! Your files have been encrypted'," Cate continued.

The school has been bombarded with phishing emails, but so far, no hits.

"You have to be. We see these attacks all the time. Any big institution does. The Pentagon receives 100,000 attacks in a day. It's not a battle you will win. It's like being in a marathon. You are running everyday. You have to be vigilant all of the time," he added.

The phishing message even comes with an explanation of how to acquire and pay them off in Bitcoin.

"Then you have a timer to tell you how much time you have before your file is deleted," Cate pointed out.

Cate says despite the fact that this phishing expedition has hit 150 countries, he says it is not sophisticated.

"It was a hack that took advantage of our failure to update our machines or willingness to click on phishing messages," he said.

He says this is also a less-threatening event than what could be around the corner.

"The real risk is not that we lose data or it gets stolen. It's that we start seeing things crash into each other. Elevators plummet in buildings, water supplies become polluted. It's time we take these serious rather than just talk about them a lot," Cate warned.

So the secret is to be vigilant and prepared for the next time, because there most certainly will be a next time.