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Experts Concerned More Powerful Wave of Ransomware Attacks is Coming

They are urging government and institutions, businesses and individuals to update their computers and operating systems.

by Matt Nanci, Reading Eagle, Pa. / May 15, 2017

(TNS) -- The ransomware cyberattack launched late last week and spanning the globe has local officials on guard for what experts say could be on the way.

Experts are concerned that a more powerful wave of attacks is coming, so they are urging government and institutions, businesses and individuals to update their computers and operating systems.

In Reading, the city backs up its data every few hours in case of a cyberattack like this, W. Glenn Steckman III, city managing director, said Sunday.

"The city has always taken it seriously," he said of cybersecurity. "That's why we've maintained a robust IT department to take all these considerations into account."

Hacking of municipalities has gone on for years, Steckman said, which is why security is such a high priority.

One of the measures officials took to help protect residents' privacy is to outsource personal data, Steckman said. For example, if someone is making a payment online, the transaction is completed through a third party so that the city never has any compromising information, he said.

And city employees receive information to help them identify anything suspicious.

"The IT department is regularly reminding staff about being very careful about opening unsuspected emails that they don't know who they're corresponding with," Steckman said.

At Kutztown University, spokesman Matt Santos said Sunday that the university is well aware of the ransomware situation.

"We haven't received any reports that we've been impacted, but we're monitoring the situation," he said.

Albright College is taking a similar approach.

The college's computer system has protections against ransomware, but staff remains on the lookout for potential threats, spokesman Thomas Durso said.

"We're always making sure to monitor whatever's going on in terms of malware, spyware and viruses," Durso said,

Joseph Swope, spokesman for UGI Utilities Inc., said the company's IT staff is always vigilant, but has been particularly busy ensuring everything is up to date.

"It looks like there was a heightened sense of awareness and they worked throughout the weekend to verify that our systems were working," he said Sunday.

UGI employees receive training on cyberthreats and are regularly sent test emails to see if the training was effective, Swope said.

The results of the tests are then used to shape additional training to be more effective.

"We'll continue to be vigilant," he said.

©2017 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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