We always endeavour to keep you up to speed with the latest malware outbreaks for your knowledge and understanding. And as we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, while ransomware has slipped off the mainstream media radar it is still out there and wreaking damage.
The latest victims are two townships in Florida, US: 
  • The town of Riviera Beach, 80 miles from Miami, paid US $600,000 worth of Bitcoins to a cybercrook who had locked its IT systems with ransomware. 
  • Lake City, a small town in Northern Florida, paid $460,000-worth of Bitcoin to hackers to regain control of its email systems and servers.
In both cases the ransomware infections appear to be the result of users mistakenly clicking on malicious links in their emails, which then released the ransomware into the wider IT systems.
  • Riviera Beach lost access to its email, IT systems were knocked offline and 911 emergency services were disrupted. 
  • Lake City local government departments had to resort to pen and paper and residents were told to monitor the Lake City Police Department’s Facebook page for any critical updates.
These attacks are the latest in an ongoing trend in which cyber criminals target the US public sector with crippling ransomware attacks.
  • So far in 2019 there have been 22 known attacks on US public-sector organisations including Baltimore and New York's state capital, Albany. 
  • Two of the most destructive ransomware attacks were in Atlanta and Newark with more than $6 million extorted in ransoms. The US Department of Justice said these two attacks alone caused more than $30 million in damage.
The cyber villains launching these attacks come from disparate backgrounds ranging from Iranian hackers to suspects in Romania and Hungary.
The one thing they have in common is the recognition that the US public sector is vulnerable to ransomware attacks and often willing to pay to have their systems unlocked.

Lessons for home users

While clearly home users don’t present the same ‘half a million dollar’ opportunities that US public sector organisations seem to, it doesn’t mean that at some point you won’t become a target especially when ransomware crooks decide to launch a mass phishing mail campaign.
Here are two simple steps to insulate yourself against these attacks:
  • Use layered security software that is designed to identify new types of malware, including ransomware.
  • Always back up your data whether it’s to cloud-based storage or a stand-alone device