Several cybersecurity attacks across the nation raise concerns in Fairfax County. From the Colonial Pipeline Co. hack to the JBS S.A. meat company ransomware attack, hackers are crawling into organizations at a rapid pace and are impacting everyday life.

Hackers shut down JBS meat plants, stunting business and preventing the sales of their products, according to the Washington Post.

The Colonial Pipeline Co. hack led to a scarcity of gasoline, leaving citizens with a lack of fuel to drive themselves to work, pick their child up from school, or go to the grocery store, according to Bloomberg.com.

Fairfax County is home to several defense contracting companies, large food chains, and government agencies. All are highly susceptible to ransomware attacks and each could directly impact the lives of citizens if hacked into.

Earlier this year, Fairfax was hit with a cyber security hack. Fairfax County Public Schools were faced with hackers that leaked personal information about teachers, NBC Washington reported.

A ransomware attack involves an outside group holding data operations hostage and not giving any data back unless a certain amount of money is paid, said Lt. Brendan Hooke of the Fairfax County Police Department.

The recent ransomware attack in D.C. raises concerns for Hooke. “What we’ve seen in the D.C. police attack indicates that they actually exfiltrated some of the data and are publicizing some of that potentially for sale,” Hooke said.

D.C. Police data was released after a ransomware attack occurred earlier this year, according to The Washington Post.

“I’d say I’m very concerned,” Hooke said, “It can really hurt your operations.” 

The recent attacks raise awareness towards practicing safer cyber security protocols, Hooke said. 

Executive Cyber Advisor at CyberAlphas Brian Schultz works to prevent cyber security attacks from occurring at different organizations, including several defense contract organizations. Cyber hygiene is a way to prevent future attacks, he said.

“They need to apply their fixes in patches that are provided by the major manufacturers of software,” Schultz said, explaining what cyber hygiene means.“One of the ways you can combat that is to ensure you have good backups that are current, so that if they do indeed encrypt your environment, then you can easily recover.” 

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification is a certification used in the Defense Industrial Base that helps contractors practice safe cybersecurity, according to ControlCase. The certification’s use began Nov. 30, 2020, according to ControlCase.

This certification allows for defense contractors to successfully pursue new contracts in the future, Schultz said.

“I guess the unfortunate thing is that we continue to fall for the same issue over and over again by not having a good secure cyber hygiene by not having good backups that would allow us to not be affected by these ransomware attacks” Schultz said.

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