July 16, 2019
The threat of ransomware has been all too apparent this year. Attacks against State government seems to have increased the most. Georgia and its court system are the latest to find themselves victims to such attacks.
Ransomware is a form of malware that once it infects a computer network, it encrypts and locks all its files. It will then demand a ransom to be paid to unlock the files and make them available again.
The state of Georgia earlier this month experienced this kind of attack against its court processing systems. The network has had to be taken offline while the issue is dealt with. This has resulted in citizens having to hand in physical court files in person, rather than submitting online.
Only last month, Baltimore city experienced a similar ransomware attack that took down vital city services. And Riviera Beach City Council in Florida was also hit by a ransomware attack in recent months. In that attack, the councils email system was completely taken offline, and 911 dispatchers could not operate properly. Unfortunately, in that case, the council ended up paying a $600,000 ransom.
That is an end-result no one wants to see and hopefully won’t be the case for the Georgia ransomware incident. When hackers get their way, it only encourages more copy-cat attacks against you and others.
The attacks on state governments, like Baltimore, like Florida, and now Georgia, suggest that hackers are increasingly targeting public facing institutions with their ransomware attacks.
There is an argument that state and local governments are a good target for hackers, being public entities. They are beholden to their citizens, so attacks that bring operations to a standstill are particularly devastating. They cannot afford as much downtimes as other organizations. Hackers hope this desperation to get back online will help illicit payment of their demands.
Another reason we are seeing the increase in ransomware attacks against governments more than in private industries, is because they are more forth-coming about incidents when they take place. You can argue that private companies are possibly staying quiet when such incident strike. Depending on their state and the rules regarding disclosure, some organizations might not be reporting such attacks.
And when Wired received a statement from the FBI regarding this issue, it was told:
“We are seeing an increase in targeted ransomware attacks; however, we do not have enough data to indicate one industry or sector is being targeted more than another. Cyber criminals are opportunistic. They will monetize any network to the fullest extent.”
As such, all industries need to be prepared for the increased threat of ransomware we are seeing. While we might be mainly seeing it in the public sector visibly, the private sector is at risk too. Organizations need to improve their defense and response to ransomware with extensive and comprehensive backup and recovery solutions. Find out more here.