Cybersecurity is a hot topic—and a hot career option these days. That’s because a new form of piracy has emerged from the fallen hearts of mankind. Ransomware gangs hack into computer systems and networks. They steal or lock down critical data and hold it for ransom—stopping organizations in their tracks. In very recent months, ransomware criminals have become bolder and more aggressive. They target industries that are critical to society’s infrastructures. These include law enforcement, healthcare, government, and energy sectors.
They do it from a love for money above all else. Christians are called to use money, but to do so wisely. While useful, money is not where true life is found. 1 Timothy 6:18-19 says Christ-followers are “to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” True wealth and security can be found only in the Lord. (Colossians 2)
The malicious acts enacted by ransomware thieves are motivated by a desire for “unjust gain.” (Proverbs 1:19) By hacking industries and demanding money in return, people and communities are harmed. Ransomware gangsters serve their love for money, and it rules over them.
A police department in Roxana, Illinois, experienced an attack in which hackers demanded $6,000 of Bitcoin cryptocurrency. The small police department isn’t the only one targeted in this way. Big and small groups have been plagued for years by foreign hackers breaking into networks and causing varying levels of mischief, from disabling email systems to more serious problems like knocking 911 centers offline. Even life-saving health procedures in hospitals have been delayed when hackers held computer systems for ransom.
In May, Russian hackers calling themselves DarkSide shut down a U.S. fuel pipeline for several days, demanding $5 million in ransom. Gasoline shortages temporarily followed, but Colonial Pipeline paid the ransom to release its production line from the attack. (See Cyberattack on US Pipeline.)
In Washington, D.C., a ransomware syndicate called Babuk hacked the city’s police department network and threatened to leak the identities of confidential informants unless an unspecified ransom was paid. A few days later, the gang tried to spur payment by leaking some department documents.
The ability to access private and confidential information poses a national security threat, according to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. So do attacks on nations’ infrastructures. The challenging goal is to prevent the hacks from happening in the first place. That requires reducing opportunities for hackers with better security and tracking.