This past Spring, the computer of the crew chief of the NASCAR Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing (CSLFR) team was infected with ransomware. Ransomware, as regular readers of Scamicide know is malware that gets unwittingly downloaded on to a person’s or company’s computer, which when downloaded encrypts the data of the victim. The victim is then told to either pay a ransom, generally in bitcoins within a short period of time or the hacker will destroy the data. In this case, the racing team paid the $500 bitcoin ransom and got their huge amounts of data back. The particular type of ransomware used in this attack was TeslaCrypt for which there already existed security software that could have prevented the malware from being able to encrypt the files, however, CSLFR did not have such security software on their computers.
Ransomware has become one of the most common and effective cybercrimes in the last year, successfully targeting individuals and a wide range of companies including law firms, accounting firms and even police departments. As big data becomes more and more a part of sports teams, particularly in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League, you can expect future attacks against professional sports teams to become more common.
The key to not becoming a victim of a ransomware attack is to prevent it in the first place. Generally, the malware is installed unwittingly by victims when they are lured through phishing and spear phishing emails to click on links infected with the malware. Never click on links in emails or text messages regardless of how legitimate they may appear until you have verified that it is legitimate. You should also install anti-phishing software. It is also important to not only have anti-malware software installed on all of your electronic devices, but to make sure that you update the security software with the latest security patches and updates. In the case of CSLFR, they fell victim to a type of ransomware for which there already existed security software to prevent the TeslaCrypt ransomware from operating. Always keep your security software up to date. Finally, always back up your computer’s data daily, preferably in two different ways in order to protect your data in the event you do become a victim of ransomware.