Ransomware: Prevent Your Computer From Infecting – 60 Minutes


The cities of Newark, Atlanta and Sarasota were hit. So does hospital systems and just last week one of the largest suppliers of beef, pork and poultry in the country. Last month, the Texas to New Jersey colonial pipeline was taken hostage, causing gas shortages along the entire east coast. When the cyber attack targeted Leeds, Alabama, the mayor had no access to email, personnel files or financial systems.

This week on 60 minutes Correspondent Scott Pelley reports on the growing cyber threat called ransomware, a type of malware that locks a victim’s files and denies access to a computer system until money is paid in a digital currency that is difficult to track. While Pelley’s report focuses on the effects of ransomware, the experts he spoke to said most attacks can be prevented.


Mike Christman of the FBI ran the FBI’s cybercrime division. He shared tips with Pelley on preventing a ransomware attack:

  • Use two-factor authentication. Two-factor or two-factor authentication adds a layer of security to online accounts by requiring two ways to prove your identity. A common form of two-factor authentication is entering a password and receiving a unique number code via SMS.

  • Use internal firewalls on your network. That way, if a malicious actor accesses your computer, it won’t be able to move sideways through the network and block the entire system. Experts liken it to preventing a person’s flu from turning into an epidemic.

  • Remote access creates additional security gaps. Understand the risks, including the possibility of stolen passwords, and how to prevent them from allowing employees or IT staff to access networks remotely.


The most common type of ransomware attack starts with a phishing email that tries to trick users into opening an attachment or clicking a link. The attachment or link then installs ransomware.

Tom Pace founded NetRise, a cybersecurity company based in Austin, Texas. When 60 Minutes spoke to him in 2019, he was vice president at BlackBerry Cylance. He spoke to 60-minute producer Henry Schuster about how to identify phishing emails and said to look for these signs:

Pace said he was aware of where the email was coming from, and if it appears to be from a friend, call the person and ask if they sent an attachment before you open it.


Pace told 60 Minutes that if your computer prompts you to update the software, do so. It’s called patching.

Over time, hackers find vulnerabilities in software such as operating systems, Adobe Reader, and Microsoft Word. Vendors end up patching these systems with regular updates – so you have to update too.


When the pandemic broke out, it created a complication for employers whose workforce had to work remotely, according to Pace. “There is no way to properly secure all of these connections, to provide the appropriate hardware and software to make it as secure as a centralized network. Companies had two to five year transformation plans that took days to weeks to complete; it was a nightmare . ” . “


In January 2018, a ransomware attack crippled computer systems at Hancock Regional Hospital in Indiana. The entire network was held hostage until the hospital paid a ransom of $ 55,000. Its CEO, Steve Long, is now warning others of the threat posed by ransomware.

“Basically good organizational dynamics is what you need,” Long told 60 Minutes. “So the things you try anyway will help you get through this.”

To view Scott Pelley’s 60 Minutes report on ransomware, click here.

The above video was originally released on May 5, 2019. It was edited by Will Croxton.

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