Cybersecurity experts say private citizens as well as businesses and government agencies need to be aware of a type of malicious attack known as ransomware.

Hackers take over computers and computer networks and take control of files.

"They ask for a ransom, just like a traditional kidnapping," said Jared Naples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

Naples said there is an increasing number of cyber threats and attacks.

“We see them at all levels of society, everything from a large multi-national corporation to the federal government to the state government to small and medium-sized businesses, which is one of our huge audiences," he said.

 

He noted that "bad actors" may also try to extract personal data from a website, including bank account numbers and other information that could be used for identity theft.

Maples said there are many reasons why bad guys may want to hack into a computer system so the goal of the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell is to inform the public about the threats, prepare against them and combat ransomware attacks.

He said it’s important for all organizations “to have all the right protocols like backing up their servers and their systems and making sure their passwords are changed and multi-factor authentication is enacted on their systems.”

He said smaller businesses and some municipalities “don’t have the bandwidth or capability that we have at the state level and so we want to assist those groups, making sure they are aware of those tools and everything in between.”

Maples noted every cyber threat that comes into the Garden State is tracked.

“They bounce them off of servers so it can be difficult to find out exactly where they originate from, but we’re certainly tracking threats for international and domestic (sources)," he said.

He said if you or your company gets hacked, call NJCCIC at 1-833-465-2242 or contact local police, and they will in turn contact the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com