JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you’ve ever received a message from a Facebook friend warning you not to accept a friend request from them because their account was “hacked,” you’re not alone. It’s easy to believe their page was hacked, but it’s likely their account was cloned.

News4JAX Consumer Investigator Lauren Verno sat down with OnDefend Security CEO Chris Freedman to discuss the differences between two popular social media problems circulating the cyber world: cloning and hacking.

Scammers are always “looking for a quick target to clone,” said Freedman “Let’s start with Facebook cloning. Facebook cloning is when someone creates a new Facebook account with your profile picture with information about you that they can find on the web to impersonate you to invite your friends to be their friends.”

While hacking into an account is a little trickier, cloning an account takes no work at all.

Unfortunately, a scammer can clone a profile on any platform, not just Facebook. Even being blue-checked certified doesn’t protect you from potentially experiencing a cloning or hacking situation.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. and DENVER, Colo., June 22, 2021 — OnDefend, a leading provider of preemptive cyber defense solutions and consulting, has entered into a promotional agreement with ACI Learning, a rapidly-growing global training provider in the audit, cyber and IT learning space.

ACI Learning has a strong portfolio of audit, cyber, and IT learning solutions for enterprise, SMB, and consumer markets. This portfolio is complementary in the market to the offerings of OnDefend, which has a combined 40 years of applied experience in the security space. OnDefend has built proven security solutions to defend clients against continually evolving and persistent cyber adversaries throughout the US and around the world.

The agreement will include cross-promotional and educational events, courses, and exclusive offerings for clients of both organizations.

“OnDefend provides a crucial service to enterprises by helping them identify and mitigate vulnerabilities,” Brett Shively, CEO of ACI Learning, said. “Almost inevitably, training will be a part of that mitigation strategy, and the online, on-demand nature of the ACI On Demand platform can plug right in.”

“ACI Learning is a great fit with the services and proprietary solutions we provide,” Chris Freedman, CEO of OnDefend, said. “When we identify gaps in corporate information security, we also identify technical training opportunities for the client’s security team so that they can better defend their organization.”

Joint events, including webinar and podcast appearances, will begin in the coming weeks.

About ACI

ACI Learning delivers lifetime learning to over 250,000 engaged professionals and members across six continents. ACI Learning offers learning to professionals and the enterprises that rely upon them, with the choice of multi-modal delivery. Students can select from on-demand learning, online virtual instructor-led training, on-premise training, and live classroom learning at one of ACI’s six learning hubs across the U.S. ACI Learning is owned by Philadelphia-based Private Equity Firm, Boathouse Capital. Visit acilearning.com and boathousecapital.com to learn more.

About OnDefend

OnDefend helps companies prepare for and defend against real-world cyber adversaries by providing preventative information security services as well as its patented and proprietary cyber defense products. By working with companies ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to regional businesses, OnDefend helps strengthen the private and public sectors security posture against continually evolving and persistent cyber adversaries throughout the US and around the world. Visit ondefend.com to learn more.

Contact info: Gary Van Prooyen, gary.vanprooyen@acilearning.com, (630) 779-2828

Originally written for news4jax.com by Jim Piggott

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More ransomware attacks on companies have been occurring across the country.

We’ve seen the impacts from an attack on the Colonial Pipeline and then on meat processing plants.

One of the latest attacks affected Cox Media radio and television stations, which caused some online disruption, according to multiple reports.

This follows a warning from the White House urging all companies to take steps and defend against ransomware attacks.

News4Jax talked with office workers downtown about cyber attacks.

Renata Donaldson said she and other employees have been warned to take precautions but she still is surprised to see what’s happening nationwide as companies are hit hard by cyber attacks.

“It’s kind of scary honestly because if you don’t really know what to expect. I don’t really know how to react,” Donaldson said.

At the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, staff told News4Jax they have had seminars in the past about ransomware attacks. The chamber has told businesses what they can do to avoid ransomware.

News4Jax also reached out to a number of businesses throughout Jacksonville asking them what steps they are taking. We spoke with financial institutions and various large companies. They all didn’t want to talk on the record, but they said they’re well aware of the problem. They are trying to take steps to protect themselves and their customers.

The White House is now telling businesses to take urgent security measures to protect against ransomware attacks.

Chris Freedman is the Founder of OnDefend a national cybersecurity company in Jacksonville. He says these latest attacks against our fuel lines, meat processing and TV and radio stations has the feds taking a harder look.

“They are going to take greater measures to protect what is our supply chain,” Freedman said.

In Jacksonville, we’ve not seen large ransomware attacks. Two smaller health care facilities were victims of a ransomware attack in October of last year.

Freedman says that could change at a moment’s notice no matter the size of the company and the target to get into the system. He said attacks usually start with regular employees.

“It is the world’s largest work from home experiment,” said Chris Freedman, founder of OnDefend, a cyber security services provider.

Freedman is accustomed to working remotely, but for many working from home this is new territory.

“In the business world, you can walk around the corner and say, ‘Joe, did you send me that email?’” he said. “In the personal world, there’s not much reference material right now.”

“They’re not necessarily targeting you as an individual, it’s kind of like a shotgun approach to get as many as possible,” Billy Steeghs, a cyber security expert who works with Freedman, said.

To show how easy it is for scammers to prey on people, Steeghs created a phishing email, or an email that’s intended to look like it came from someone else in hopes that the recipient will be duped.

For his example, Steeghs made the email look like it came from Amazon, a popular place to shop online.

“So, it’s $10 and it says apply to your Amazon account,” he explained. “Who wouldn’t fall for this?”

With emails like this, scammers can get access to your account the moment you input your credentials. Then it’s up to the cyber criminals what they decide to do with your personal information.

So, how do you spot it?

“I’m hovering over this Amazon account, you see I’m hovering over it and this is an action you can do, and you can see to the left it doesn’t actually say Amazon.com,” Steeghs said.

Whenever you receive an email and there’s a link attached, hover over the link but don’t click it. While hovering, look at the bottom left of your screen. The website’s URL will pop up and if it doesn’t say the website it claims to be from, Steeghs said it’s a fake.

“That will always pop up,” he said. “You just have to hover over the link but don’t click.”

If you do click on a phishing email’s link, you’ll be taken to a website that looks just like the real one — all the way down to copyright at the bottom.

From there, it will ask you to put in your credentials. Once you click submit, you will be re-routed to the real website and the cyber criminals will have your login information.

“You should be lucky if it’s only taking your credentials,” Steeghs said. “It could also have loaded some malware on your computer that now starts spying on you.”

Yes, someone could be spying on your devices or computer.

Steeghs said one way to see if you are a victim of malware and someone has been inside your accounts is checking your browser history often and making sure you recognize all the websites listed there. If you think your device has been compromised, Steeghs recommends clearing your history and checking it again later.

What’s Steeghs’ top recommendation for protecting your personal information?

“I would stop storing passwords in your browser,” he said.

So the next time you see a pop-up in your browser asking if you want to remember a password, click never.

Freedman suggests making your passwords more complex. You shouldn’t use the same password for all of your logins. You should also change your passwords frequently. And if possible, use two-factor authentication.

“Let’s turn those passwords them into 12 characters letters, numbers, uppercase, lowercase symbols,” he said.

Since it’s recommended to have different passwords for everything, it’s easy to keep everything straight. Steeghs and Freedman both recommend using the app Last Pass, which provides a free standard service.

When it comes to public Wi-Fi, Freedman recommends always staying away from it and using a hotspot instead.

If you have to use Wi-Fi, he recommends connecting a secured server and never putting in any personal information.

So best to do the online shopping at home.

OnDefend, a local cybersecurity firm, has partnered with the national staffing, IT and consulting services brand Modis — one of Adecco’s brands — to offer cybersecurity solutions to its customers.

It’s the first such partnership for OnDefend. The two companies will be offering security services to Modis’ clients throughout the U.S., including vulnerability management, network and penetration testing, cloud environment security, email phishing training and more.

“It’s a natural extension,” OnDefend Managing Parter Chris Freedman said. “Primarily right now, cybersecurity is critical.”

OnDefend is focused on finding channel partners as it continues to add new cybersecurity offerings to its portfolio, Freedman said. Modis is particularly well suited for OnDefend because they have a large footprint and many clients that would benefit from these services.

They had been collaborating for months, Freedman said, as the pandemic wore on and illustrated how integral cybersecurity was in the nature of remote work.

“I think with this pandemic, the timing is really interesting, outside of us planning to partner and serve those clients, it’s really drawn out a really big need,” Freedman added.

OnDefend has reshaped its offerings to partner with national brands, Freedman said, finding its stride in focusing on business-to-business channel partnerships.

“We have built ourselves to truly add value by creating a non-invasive kind of overall solution and services for clients,” Freedman said.

This partnership was particularly exciting for Freedman because he is a Jacksonville native who remembers when the Modis sign was the biggest thing on the Jacksonville skyline.

While the pandemic caused many companies to tighten their purse strings and review their expenses, it also illustrated the importance of cybersecurity for the modern workforce, he said. Freedman believes that the pandemic will likely cause businesses to rethink the way they operate — in terms of office space and remote work — but also in their need for investing in their security.

“I think there are going to be a lot of opportunities coming out of this,” Freedman said.

Freedman said that work has already been trending in this direction and it makes sense to consider the need for cybersecurity. Modis clearly thought so, “The Modis – OnDefend partnership is an exciting combination,” Pete Broding, head of Modis consulting and academy, said in the press release. “By complementing our Modis Consulting technology capabilities with OnDefend’s portfolio of security services, we greatly enhance the impact our solutions bring to our clients’ business.”

Originally written for newsforjax.com by Vic Micolucci

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Experts say cyber hacking is worse than ever before, and something we use every single day is the door criminals are using to take over families, businesses and cities.

Using software called ransomware, thieves lock up data through encryption, making important files and functions impossible to access — and it starts with the click of a button.

“It only takes one person in the company,” said Chris Freedman, co-founder of the cybersecurity firm OnDefend. “Even if you have 1,000 employees, it only takes one to take down an entire organization that easy.”

Cities held hostage by hackers

Ransomware is hitting close to home, recently taking over government computers and servers in Lake City and Riviera Beach, as well as the Georgia Court System.

The hackers usually demand a ransom days later, required to be paid in digital and virtually untraceable currency, like Bitcoin.

Some of the governments whose files were compromised paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the information back because it’s cheaper than starting from scratch.

There were 184 million ransomware attacks worldwide in 2018, according to Digital Guardian. The software, sent often by overseas hackers, is taking over computers and helping criminals steal hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It’s big business. A billion dollar industry,” Freedman said.

Major companies had previously been the biggest targets but there’s a new victim: local governments.

“They’re probably the least funded into security defenses,” Freedman explain. “So that makes them the most vulnerable.”

It cost Atlanta $17 million to recover from a hack last year. Baltimore will have to pay around $18 million to get its data back.

Ransomware locks up communication, bills, personal information and can even shut down a power grid.

And the attacks don’t discriminate. In June, an unknown hacker got into Lake City’s server, likely after sending a phishing email to employees. The likely scenario: someone clicked a link, allowing the software download on their computer and access the entire city’s server. All the city’s files were locked up.

“It brought the city basically to a grinding halt for several days,” said Sgt. Mike Lee with the Lake City Police Department. “We had no telephone lines, our phones were offline, our email system was down.”

The hacker sent Lake City leaders a demand: pay a hefty $460,000 ransom in Bitcoin or the files will be locked forever.

“It is a lot of money and everybody says, ‘Well, let’s don’t pay bribes or last, don’t pay thieves,’ but you got to do what’s best for the citizens,” longtime Mayor Stephen Witt explained.

City council members voted to hand it over. Taxpayers ended up footing $10,000 of the bill. The rest of the payout came from the insurance company, through the Florida League of Cities.

“I listened to the experts and what their advice was and made the decision that was best, not one I’ve wanted to make with my heart,” Witt said.

WJXT demonstrates how a hack can happen

So how can a criminal take down an entire city in a matter of minutes?

The I-TEAM brought in cyber security experts from OnDefend to try to hack into the system at WJXT, an experiment that was supervised by WJXT’s IT Department.

OnDefend security consultant Billy Steeghs sent Vic Micolucci an email that looks like it’s from News4Jax photojournalist Joe Owens.

News staff members send and receive hundreds of emails a day, and at first glance, it seemed no different. But an attachment, which appears to be video from a breaking news story, downloads ransomware onto the computer.

“Now your computer just became unavailable,” said Steeghs, a longtime computer programmer.

Turns out, Steeghs built a spoof email address: jowens@wjxtt.com. Notice the extra “t” after “wjxt.” It’s that easy. The software was able to encrypt or lock up all the files. The laptop was useless with an encryption key, which is what the hackers demand money for.

“If this computer was connected to an open network, these programs populate into really quickly, which means all your computers could’ve been affected,” Steeghs said. “It goes fast and it’s pretty much immediate.”

We asked how long it took to set up this scam and Steeghs responded, “Less than five minutes.”

Malware programs target individuals

Other malware programs act a little differently by targeting individual people. They can monitor an internet user’s key strokes and mouse clicks to spy through web cameras and use the victim’s computer to hack into other computers. It essentially creates a web making the source of the original breach even harder to trace.

“They’re sending out bots that just blanket the nation and it’s a numbers game,” Freedman warned. “Who’s going to click and how far can — how much data can we get?”

OnDefend experts showed a site that looks just like a payroll company’s. Examples include: Paychex, ADP or Workday.

“They ask you to kind of verify your pay stub,” Steeghs said.

Unsuspecting victims will enter their username and password and someone from across the world can redirect their direct deposit paycheck to their account, siphoning out all the future checks until the victim catches on.

Protect yourself from cyber crooks

Experts said as Americans rely more on technology, they need to know the vulnerabilities. The United States is by far the most targeted in cyber attacks, and a single click of the mouse can make an entire city go dark.

“Email is not a very safe way to communicate,” Steeghs warned.

Be careful. That’s the final word from cyber experts. No matter if you’re running a business or just your household, watch out for every email you get. Even a trusted spam filter, antivirus software or firewall can be compromised.

Those popular antivirus software programs don’t always work with these new attacks. Freedman and Steeghs suggest users read every character in every email address. It takes extra time, but it can save users a lot of money and headaches.

Also, if your bank or company asks you to update your information, don’t do it through the email. Instead, go directly to their website to access your account.

Finally, experts recommend companies and government agencies consider hiring “ethical hackers,” which are legitimate cybersecurity experts who try to hack into servers and look for weaknesses.

While the attacks are most prevalent on computers, experts said smartphones are not completely immune. Hackers are getting better and analysts say that’s the future.

OnDefend is developing apps and programs to help detect and stop the attacks. They hope to release them soon.

If anyone needs assistance with testing or training to defend against these kinds of attacks, email OnDefend at contact@ondefend.com or call 1-800-214-2107.

More questions answered

Can smartphones get hacked?

Yes. Although apps on mobile phones go through a very rigorous review process, there are cases where malicious apps have made it through the iPhone App and Google Play stores. Something we do see frequently is insecure or malicious Wi-Fi access points that can be used to gain access to your devices and the information you access on the internet.

Is there a software that’s best at catching these?

ProofPoint or personal solutions like Cylance can minimize the chances malicious activity and applications are installed through phishing attacks. We always recommend that you have an up-to-date virus scanner on your computer.

What about online backups?

Using a real online and off-site backup solution such as Carbonite is a good idea. Making a backup on an external hard drive regularly and disconnecting it from the computer is also a very safe and fast way to recover. External hard drives are very affordable, and everyone should use them.

If you have more questions, email vic@wjxt.com.