TARGET 8: How companies can prepare to respond to cyber attacks
COLUMBIA - Most businesses and organizations have a website, and it is possible for someone from an outside server to hack it and shut it down.
"They can happen any time, anywhere. I never thought it would happen to us. I mean how big is KOMU in the grand scheme of things of websites and publicity? I mean we're kind of small potatoes," Systems Administrator Jason Kennedy said.
In December, both KOMU 8 and the City of Columbia were hit with a distributed denial of service attack.
Former Chief of the Missouri Attorney General's Office's High Tech and Cyber Crimes Unit, Craig Chval, says it's very difficult to track who is attacking a site, and therefore it is difficult to both prevent and prosecute them.
"In the simplest terms, it's marshaling technology and computing power to overwhelm a website with volume so that the website can't keep up with the volume that's coming in and basically has to shut down," Chval said when explaining how the attacks work.
SC magazine, a trade publication for security professionals, found these types of attacks increased in both the size and number of attacks in 2014.
"One of the challenges here is that the technology is developing and changing so rapidly that whether it's law enforcement or businesses or private entities that are providing security services, they're almost always in a reactive mode" Chval said.
He added a business could pay a security company to help better protect it, but it comes with a price tag. Chval estimates tens of thousands of dollars, but while you may not be able to afford a security company's help, he says any business can have a reaction plan that usually starts with contacting whoever hosts your website.
"They're the only ones that are really in a position to cut off traffic that's overwhelming your site and your system," Chval said. "Of course cutting it off means cutting it off to everybody, so kind of thinking through these scenarios in advance."
Chval added these cyber attacks usually are not random. For example, the City of Columbia believes it was hit because of a video of a 2010 Columbia police SWAT raid in which two dogs were shot. KOMU 8 believes it was attacked as a result of quoting city officials when reporting of that attack.
While a full service security company can be pricey, in our own experience KOMU 8 found these security resources online that offer some free services.