There's been a big security breach in Millcreek Township.

Erie News Now has uncovered a hacker got into the township's system, essentially bringing its computer operations to a screeching halt.

It was a ransomware attack, that can happen to anyone or any company.

So, we had our own IT Specialist talk about just what a ransomware attack is, and how to protect yourself or your company.

Millcreek Township is working with its cyber security experts, after it says their computer system was hacked.

We've learned it was a ransomware attack. A hacker reportedly breached the system, gaining access to the township's email, phone, and computer systems, impacting everything from its zoning office to police department.

So, what is ransomware?
It's a type of malware that threatens to publish the victim's data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.

Chances are you've had a computer virus before, it infects programs, brings up those annoying pop-ups, and slows your computer.

But, according to Nate Brown, our own IT Specialist at Erie News Now, ransomware is much more malicious, “Rather than a virus that just gets into your computer and messes it all up, ransomware is actually somebody on the other end controlling the viruses.”

In this case, according to our sources, the hacker reportedly demanded at least a quarter of a million dollars from Millcreek Township to restore the data and give the township back control of its system. The township is reportedly working with its insurance company to pay some sort of ransom.

Brown says it's common for these hackers to request money. They've also been known to steal lewd pictures on computers and use blackmail to get victims to pay up, “People can do whatever they want if they're smart enough.”

So how can you protect yourself or your company?

Brown says three things you should have to protect from ransomware; get a physical firewall system, have a good email filter, and virus protection software on your computers.

And as always be vigilant about what you're doing online. Just be cautions of what you click, “Be aware of what emails you're getting, change your passwords often, it’s a pain but it’s a serious help. You always want to make sure you're opening things you're 100% you know who this is from, where it's from, and you're comfortable opening it,” said Brown.

“And you have to be careful of links inside of emails also, even if it appears to be from someone legitimate, the email may on the surface appear legit, but you have to be careful because there could be something imbedded in those links.”

Millcreek township has confirmed the FBI is investigating.