VANCOUVER -- You get an email. It seems benign but if you click on the wrong thing, ransomware can tunnel into your computer, encrypting data until you or the company you work for pays up.

The recent cyberattack on Colonial, a major U.S. pipeline, has shone a spotlight on just how vulnerable the internet has made all of us, and why cybersecurity is so important. That attack cut off fuel to the east coast.

“Cybercrime is prolific right now,” says Derek Manky, chief of security insights and global threat alliances at Fortinet’s Fortiguard Labs. “It’s a pandemic on its own.”

The FBI has confirmed the hacker gang Darkside was behind the attack on Colonial. What’s driving them? Money, Manky says.

“The large criminal enterprise groups, they’re making well over a billion dollars a year,” he says.

Estimates of up to $5 trillion a year are lost globally to major criminal organizations and malicious CEOs hiding behind shell companies and using money launderers to hide their profits.

Manky has been consulting with INTERPOL to help shut some of these groups down. 

The goal is to disrupt the supply chains of criminal enterprises, find ways to identify them and take them offline properly, and freeze their assets, making it more expensive for them to operate.

But we all need to help out, Manky says. “The state of security is not at the level it should be.”

Although hackers tend to go after high value targets, no one is immune. Manky says companies need to spend more on security and better educate their employees. And we need to be able to lockdown even our personal technical systems.

Devices like the security cameras you add to your personal network at home need to be walled off from public access to keep your network safe.

So what can you do?

  • Never click on suspicious links in emails
  • Verify the source before taking action
  • Change passwords often
  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Keep your software up-to-date
  • Use anti-virus protection
  • Seek expert help if you need it.

But thieves and their highly sophisticated hacking schemes aren’t going away, Manky warns.

“If we don’t do anything about it now, (the outcome) is very bleak,” he says.