Recently a ransomware attack has hit the city of Baltimore - anonymous hackers breached the city services and several services became offline (government email systems, online payments, and real estate transactions).
Today we live in insecure cities, where hackers can jeopardize an entire city by using ransomware. The malware that attacked Baltimore is called Robinhood, a powerful malicious program that, among other capabilities, makes impossible to access held server data without a digital key.
However, the attack on Baltimore is not the first of its kind, nor is it the last. In 2019 alone, there have already been 22 public-sector attacks in the US costing them millions of dollars.
Many are probably not aware, but such attacks on government-owned systems are on the rise. Ransomware incidents on local governments jumped by 39% in 2018, and from what we’ve seen by now in 2019 – the trend doesn’t seem to be stopping.
Major Ransomware Attacks on Cities
Ransomware attacks can cripple cities, so it’s no wonder that they are among the top threats in the public sector.
Out of the many attacks that exist each year, all which target public services, there are two attacks that we need to separate – the ones that targeted the cities of Baltimore, and Atlanta:
. The attack on Atlanta happened in March 2018, and its cause was the so-called SamSam ransomware attack. It forced city officials to complete forms by hand, but the most important thing here is that the attack affected many systems the city has (utility, parking, court services, and more). Atlanta eventually had to devote around $2.7 million to fix the damage caused by an attack. The ransom was for $51,000.
. The attack on Baltimore happened in May 2019, and the cause was a new type of ransomware called RobbinHood. They too had to deliver their services manually and quarantine the networks the city owns. The attack is still recent and it seems that it will take quite a long time for the city to recover completely.
A debate for who’s responsible is still ongoing, but it’s very likely that it’s the city’s fault and the fact that they haven’t updated underlying system securities.
Ransomware Continues to target Businesses of all sizes
Ransomware continues to target the public sector but also the private businesses. The problem often lies in the domain of human error and protection software and systems that haven’t been updated.
It’s so simple, yet it can affect an entire city and cost them millions of dollars. The same thing can happen to your business, as these attacks are targeting companies and will continue to do so for because of its an easy profit for the hackers.
Two years after the devastating WannaCry, a large-scale ransomware attack which affected several organizations around the world, with more than 200,000 infections in more than 150 countries, today a million computers remain at risk.
Ransomware is a serious threat because it encrypts the company information which they can’t have access. The hackers then ask for a paid ransom to the victim company so they can send the decryption keys, but there is no guarantee that their information will be released even if the company pays the ransom. Ransomware attacks are profitable in this sense but may also pose different threats, namely around information theft, or espionage.
No matter the size of the organization – all can suffer such a crippling attack and potentially lose millions of dollars.
To adequately protect cities government or businesses, you need to make sure that there is a culture of cybersecurity, all the patches updated, protect your company IP address, and have the best email security software installed among other cybersecurity measures.
Being aware that these ransomware attacks are as dangerous as they sound is the first step you need to take, and by making sure your systems are protected, you’ll be well on your way to avoiding any cyber attack in the future.
Author: Rui Serra
With degrees in Computer Engineering and Marketing, Rui started his career managing training documentation for IT Training and consulting firms. He then joined Nokia Siemens Networks as a Documentation Specialist and Project Scrum Master before joining AnubisNetworks in 2009, where he has advanced from managing documentation to Product Manager for the growing Product Portfolio.