FBI agents in Richmond outlined steps they’re taking to address cyberattacks that target business email addresses and other digital areas. A surge in cases came as more people worked remotely during COVID-19.
“Our job is to identify, detect and deter,” Supervisory Special Agent Chris Cope said Thursday. “What we need is for people to let us know they’ve had an attack.”
The FBI invited the media to a roundtable discussion held at its offices on East Parham Road, which oversees operations across multiple Central Virginia counties.
“Cybersecurity is everywhere, from our essential businesses to the energy sector,” said Stanley Meador, special agent in charge of the Richmond field office. “And cybercrime issues have no borders.”
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The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2021 recorded $6.9 billion worth of losses due to cybercrime. A total of $178 million came from Virginia.
Meador said cybersecurity has been a focus for local, state and federal law enforcement as remote work, virtual learning and cash transfer apps became more prevalent.
The cyber team in Richmond is actively tracking trends among cyberattackers and reminding people to protect privacy and information, Meador said.
Cope said victims should report cyberattacks to quickly no matter the degree of severity. He said businesses large and small have fallen victim to phishing scams like phony domain names, fake mail services, ransomware and malware.
A typical scam may involve tricking an employee into unknowingly downloading an attachment that allows a criminal access to a business’ computer system. Sometimes data is held hostage until a business pays a ransom.
One such ransomware case in 2019 cost the city of Baltimore $18 million.
“Sometimes there’s a certain reluctance to come to us because companies want to protect their reputation,” said
Cope, special agent in charge of the Richmond Division’s cyber team. “But data is perishable. If you take a few weeks to contact us we may not be able to investigate.”
Information can be sent to the FBI at ic3.gov.
Cope also suggested good “cyber hygiene,” including being wary of who you’re talking to online, keeping devices up to date, using different passwords for personal and company devices, and having a plan in place should a cyberattack occur.
“Individual victims matter to us as much as any big company,” said David Lewis, assistant to the Richmond division’s special agent in charge. “That’s why we want to build partnerships between us and the community.”
The FBI estimated there were 19,954 business email compromise complaints in 2021, for a net loss of around $2.4 billion.