FBI, Baton Rouge security specialists are targeting hackers

FBI, Baton Rouge security specialists are targeting hackers

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - According to the FBI, hackers and cyber terrorists are a constant threat, even for people in Baton Rouge.

"It's pretty much an epidemic," said Chad Olivier of Baton Rouge. "The real issue isn't so much of who gets breached, it's how do they even know they've been attacked."

Olivier's job is to protect Baton Rouge businesses from hackers who can access someone else's computer and steal their files. Executives are in such demand for better security that Olivier was able to start his own company, Shades of Gray Security, where he builds defenses against cyber threats.

He stumbled into this career by accident while working for a tech company.

"While I was there, I figured out how to make the system dump all the credit cards of everyone that ever bought the service from them onto the website, and so I was like, that was kind of interesting," Olivier said.

It was then that Olivier realized the amount of information that hackers could access. It's something that the FBI has had their eye on for years.

A national cyber intrusion team was established in 2002, and those teams have grown ever since then.

"The FBI is in the same mode for cyber crime that we were after 9-11 for counter terrorism," said Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sallet at the FBI's New Orleans Division. "We've continued to feed our counter terrorism apparatus as the threats have grown more diverse and more complicated. The same thing is ongoing right now and the same commitment towards cyber crime."

Sallet said the risk of cyber crime is so big that every agent with the FBI has some kind of cyber training.

"What I find to be incredibly troubling is that somebody could be sitting in Russia, and they could do the equivalent of robbing seven thousand banks in ten minutes," Sallet said.

But who are these criminals? And how do they gain this knowledge?

The FBI said hackers are normal citizens, and many of them are harmless. In order to do any damage, they have to purchase or develop malware, software that infects computers with viruses.

Sometimes the hackers come from within the companies themselves. In July 2015, the FBI arrested Brian Johnson of Baton Rouge.

The agency said Johnson was fired by Georgia Pacific, a paper company, and then retaliated by hacking into their network, causing more than $5,000 in damages.

Special Agent Drew Watts, the supervisor for the Cyber Intrusion Team at the New Orleans Division, wants to see more businesses take bigger security precautions.

"A lot of people think, well I don't have anything that anybody wants," Watts said. "What we see is these large spam attacks, they just go out and see what they can get."

Watts is referring to phishing, which is one of the most common techniques. Hackers send out an email to a large number of people with a link that will infect their computer with malware. One type of malware is ransomware, which hackers can use that to steal a company's files and then ask for money in return.

Olivier said the most common amounts are around the $300 range, but can reach into the thousands.

"What ransomware does is just it encrypts the files on your system with a very strong encryption so that you can't encrypt it to get the data back out, the only way to get out is to pay them, and they'll send you the decryption key and unlock your stuff for you," Olivier said.

So what can people do to protect themselves? Both the FBI and Olivier say backing up your files is the easiest safeguard.

For businesses, have a response plan when an attack is underway. They also suggest using more complex passwords that don't include simple information like your birthday or names of relatives.

The FBI has several tools people can use if they want to learn more about how to protect themselves from hackers:

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