People at a local company went to work Monday wondering if their systems were attacked for the second time in just over a year.

Insurance Advisors of St. Louis was hit by a Ransomware attack in February 2016 that is similar to the one currently wreaking havoc around the world. But some forethought and quick action kept the company from having to play the hackers' game.

Somehow hackers broke into the company's server and locked out users. The thieves demanded $800 in order to release the server and all its data.

But the IT team at Insurance Advisors was one step ahead of the bad guys. The company routinely backs up its server, meaning they could essentially ignore the hackers' demands.

While the company didn't have to pay the ransom, work at the office slowed to a crawl.
“We just had to re-input the system. But, we had seven employees not working for two days. So, that's tough,” said Tom Rothwell, President of Insurance Advisors of St. Louis.

5 on Your Side has learned the only systems affected by the current attack are those running older Windows operating systems including Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows XP. Over the weekend Microsoft released an update that will help protect your system.

Cyber security experts say businesses and individuals can take some simple steps to protect themselves by first setting their computers to automatically update security patches. Next, back up your important files to a separate hard drive that is regularly disconnected from the system. And finally, use a strong anti-virus program and scan your system on a regular basis.

If you've already been victimized, the big question is whether or not to pay the ransom. Dr. Jim Curtis, cyber security expert at Webster University in St. Louis says that's an individual call. If you've backed up your important files, you shouldn't have to pay. But Curtis says if you haven't taken steps to protect yourself it may cost more in the long run to fight the cyber crooks and work around their hack.