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Blake Dowling: The state of cybersecurity in 2019 — it’s not good

Buckle up, as this epidemic does not have a cure (just yet).

This week, Aegis hosted one of our business partners from Connecticut.

Datto’s Michael DePalma and myself.

Michael DePalma — with the tech firm Datto — came down to Florida to talk to 20 of our clients (both government and private sector) and partners in Florida about cybersecurity and the importance of having redundant backups of your critical systems.

He told a story of presenting with someone from the Philadelphia FBI office about ransomware; they asked the agent how many criminals are caught regarding ransomware schemes.

Zero. Goose egg.

That is what makes this recent arrest in Britain so important (something I wrote about earlier this month for Florida Politics).

The amount of money made by this type of criminal engagement is staggering.

Ransomware surged when bitcoin came to the market, as it is an untraceable cyber currency.

In the past, a victim would wire or send gift cards to cybercriminals, who could then get apprehended pretty quickly as those types of moves are very traceable.

No doubt you saw the meteoric rise of this cryptocurrency, going from a few dollars per coin to almost $20K over the past five years (and back down to around $3K).

Someone sitting on thousands of these coins in a luxury bunker in Moscow and you cashed out when this currency peaked you are doing OK fiscally.

Why is this important to Florida? Remember when Sen. Bill Nelson was mumbling that Russians hacked the Florida elections offices? He knew it but wouldn’t say more.

Well, it turns out they were, as the Mueller report released last Thursday pointed out.

So, Bill was right all along. Excellent work, Mr. Nelson. He is a nice guy, and I always liked him.

But surely experts are keeping people safe now? Nope.

Last week, hackers hit the City of Stuart with ransomware. The FBI is currently investigating, according to WPTV. Another example of police and local officials forced to do business with pen and paper, as nothing works (just like Atlanta last year).

Hopefully, you never have to put one of these news releases together. Ouch.

If you haven’t yet figured it out, we have hit the epidemic stage with these types of threats.

Another example, I suggested to a local PR firm last week they start cybersecurity training; one of the firm’s representatives tells me the following story:

One of his team received an email (socially engineered) that looked like it was from him to that person, telling them he needed a stack of low denomination gift cards; get a credit card from management and head to Target and get them.

(Red flags No. 1 and 2 shown — but not seen.)

The manager said to do it; they did. The criminal then asked them if scratch of the back of each card so he could have the codes (red flags No. 3 and 4). They did.


Thousands lost. Hacking, ransomware, phishing, breaches. They aren’t stopping.

I admit I reply to the phishing emails at times (just to mess with them). They often ask for iTunes gift cards. I ask: “How about a gift card to Bass Pro Shops, instead. You like to fish/phish” (pun intended). Or I’ll ask about the weather, who they like in college football, did they vote Hillary or Trump, etc.?

When I do these things, they get furious. Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home, folks (I am a cybersecurity expert, after all).

If you (or your staff) are not trained — do it now. It takes more than cybersecurity measures to stop today’s cybercriminals.

It’s “Fast Times at Ransomware High” out there, students of the world: Will you be Jeff Spicoli or Mr. Hand?

Which are you: Jeff Spicoli or Mr. Hand?

Buckle up, as this epidemic does not have a cure (just yet).

Be safe out there, and maybe next week there will be no more cyberthreats to write so that I can write about something else?

Somehow, I really doubt it.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at or at

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