• Written by Rich Clark / Ontario Systems | 9th March 2020
In 2019, more than 140 local governments, hospitals, and police stations fell victim to malicious ransomware attacks. Various cities across Louisiana, Texas, and Florida are among many that have appeared in the headlines. This particularly malicious type of cybercrime has become a global issue whose reach and impact continue to grow. Recent reports claim ransomware damages could cost the world $20 billion by 2021.

Cybercriminals are continuously adapting and refining their strategy, making ransomware attacks very difficult to prevent and expensive to resolve. More recent attacks have targeted small and midsize local governments, with data and operations severely compromised and ransom demands frequently in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Guarding against ransomware can be substantially more difficult for local and county government agencies, which are often smaller and operating with less sophisticated IT systems. To mitigate the risk and limit the fallout of ransomware attacks, public officials must understand the threat, shore up internal defenses, and plan an effective response. The Basics of Ransomware Let’s start with an overview of how these attacks work. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts mission-critical data such as personal information and financial records to make them inaccessible to the organization that owns the data. Once cybercriminals have the information locked down, they demand a ransom before returning access to victims by way of a decryption key. How do cybercriminals access data to begin with? Malicious code can enter a system a variety of ways; among the most common are email attachments and phishing emails with embedded links. Once activated by click, open, or download, this code will then instruct the host system to run the ransomware code. How vulnerable are most organizations to ransomware attacks? The short answer is, frighteningly so. The average employee receives more than 120 emails per day, and any of these emails can contain malicious code. It takes only one employee responding to one wrong email to unleash ransomware and potentially bring operations to a halt. Why not just pay the ransom? Many smaller government agencies feel the only way to respond to a ransomware attack is to pay the ransom. But your odds of resolving the issue this way are slim. In fact, studies show that fewer than a third of organizations that pay cybercriminals recover access to their data. Rather than simply caving to cybercriminals’ demands and hoping for the best, I recommend taking the following steps to lower your risk for an incident and to get your system up and running more quickly if an attack occurs. To read the complete article, visit American City & County.