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Austin cyber security firm shares how to defend against hackers

The cyberattack that quickly spread across Ukraine and the rest of Europe on Tuesday could potentially impact the U.S. and Texas. (CBS Austin)

The cyberattack that quickly spread across Ukraine and the rest of Europe on Tuesday could potentially impact the U.S. and Texas.

Hackers held the data of major companies hostage with ransomware. Malicious software named “Petya” locked up computers in Ukraine at government offices, energy companies, banks cash machines and supermarkets. There were reports of it affecting drug makers Merck and Mondelez International, the owner of food brands Oreo and Nabisco were also impacted.

Victims would see a screen pop up on their computer monitors that read “You became victim of the Petya Ransomware!” Instructions called for the victims to download a browser and send $300 in bitcoin to recover their files.

“This is one of the worst,” said Chris Humphreys, CEO the Austin-based cyber security firm, the Anfield Group. “This is a huge warning to anyone using the windows operating system.”

Humphreys said the U.S., even Texas, is vulnerable to cyberattacks like ‘Petya,’ given the popularity of the window operating system.

“Just because it happens way over there, you think their systems are way different. They’re not,” he said.

The pace of the ransomware spread appeared to slow as the day wore one. Humphreys warned how easily malware can be fabricated and spread. “People are making their own versions and this thing propagates and gets bigger and bigger,” he said.

His advice to consumers and major companies is to update security settings. Microsoft regularly sends out a patch management software updates. Humphreys encourages consumers and companies to get in the habit of updating those settings. For some, it may be their only line of defense against malware.

“You need to set your computer to auto update those things. If you don’t see those things patched. You’re going to leave yourself wide open,” he said.

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