About seven or eight years ago, I was sitting at my desk one morning when I received an urgent text from my then-boss.
She was holding a meeting, according to the text, and needed me to purchase $1,000 in electronic gift cards as a giveaway to the attendees as soon as possible.
Needless to say, this text didn’t pass the sniff test. For one thing, it didn’t sound at all like something my boss would request. For another, I wasn’t aware she had a meeting that morning. Then I checked the phone number it came from — it wasn’t hers, though the text had spoofed her name.
Soon thereafter, I started hearing from co-workers who received the same spurious text claiming to come from our organization’s executive director. To our credit, none of us were fooled, but not long after, I heard about another organization that did get scammed by this con.
Whether at work or in our personal lives, we are constantly barraged with relentless attempts to dupe us into handing over credit card or bank account numbers or sensitive login information. In the worst cases, bad actors can hold critical systems or data captive for increasingly large ransoms. Last year, the Southeastern U.S. saw the real impact of these cyber assaults in the form of long gas lines, panic buying and fuel shortages following the May 2021 ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline.
Criminal syndicates and hostile nation-states sponsor sophisticated cybercrime operations encompassing everything from ransomware hacker networks to scam telemarketing centers, corporate espionage and cyberattacks aimed at critical systems and infrastructure. Many of these attacks originate from China and Russia, as well as Turkey and even Brazil, often with government support.
In this issue’s cover story, “Cyberwar zone,” freelance writer Emily Freehling reports that the average ransom payment to cybercrooks has rocketed to a staggering $541,010. Plus, President Joe Biden and federal officials are warning businesses that Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to retaliate against U.S. sanctions on Russia and support for Ukraine by launching cyberattacks on U.S. interests.
If you’ve been whistling past the graveyard, thinking that your business will escape the notice of the bad guys, maybe it’s time to take out a life insurance policy in the form of a cybersecurity review. Freehling’s article offers some expert suggestions for where to begin with hardening your company’s security measures.
Also in the May issue, we have an exclusive interview with 92-year-old media mogul, televangelist and Regent University founder Pat Robertson about his legacy and Regent’s impact and influence in producing hundreds of conservative leaders across politics, government, law and academia.
On Page 28, Virginia Business Associate Editor Robyn Sidersky talks with new Virginia Economic Development Partnership President and CEO Jason El Koubi about his role in landing some of Virginia’s largest economic development deals, as well as his plans for expanding on the work of his lauded predecessor, Stephen Moret.
Additionally, freelancer Jenny Kincaid Boone looks at why the hotel industry is eyeing a big tourism summer, despite inflation and high gas prices. M.J. McAteer writes about why attorneys at Virginia’s biggest law firms are busier than ever, and Carl Fincke reports on how Virginia Beach is seeking to grow its economy beyond tourism and military spending.
But before you read on, I just want to offer a friendly alert that our editorial staff and freelancers will be contacting many of your businesses over the next month or two to collect information about your top executives for our annual Virginia 500 issue, which compiles the state’s most powerful leaders in business, government and education.
We won’t be phishing — I promise.