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Senate Democrats hope to have some IT systems online by end of week

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Leaders in the Senate Democratic caucus are hoping to have some of their IT systems back online by the end of the week, state Sen. Jay Costa told FOX43 Wednesday.

Senate Democratic lawmakers and their staffs were the target of a ransomware attack late last week that has held their data hostage unless the caucus pays the attackers a ransom.

" Folks are adjusting well and they recognize the predicament that we're in," Costa (D - Allegheny County) said. "They're basically resorting to their own devices to be able to communicate."

The FBI and Microsoft, which loaned out more than 100 laptops to workers after the cyber attack, are working with the Democratic caucus to get to the root of the attack.

"I just think it might have been something as an opportunity target as opposed to Democrats are being targeted," Costa said.

"It generates money for the people who [sic] are creating and sharing these paths, so ransomware is not going away, and being proactive, being reactive are really the only things you can do," Scott Davis, with IntermixIT, a cyber-security firm in Lower Paxton Township, said.

Most ransomware attacks come from emails "phishing" for information, and the best way to defend against that is not opening them.

"[It's] the proactive approach, making sure you know what you're looking for," Davis said. "If you're not expecting a package from UPS, don't open an email from UPS."

Another way to limit damage from such an attack is backing up your data as often as once a week if you're generating dozens of files, as well as testing and verifying those backups to make sure they went through cleanly.

Data recovery websites are available that can decrypt files one at a time, but there is no guarantee of success, Davis said.

"Be aware of what you're doing on the computer," he said. "At the end of the day, it is still a computer and the user error is the most common."

IntermixIT is collaborating with the Harrisburg Regional Chamber to host a webinar on cyber-security. Click here for more information on the event.