Wave of ransomware attacks targeting US cities

The issue of cybersecurity is one of the highest risks faced by businesses today. Ransomware is a particular concern as it can lead to catastrophic data loss in a worst-case scenario, and in lesser cases, it can severely disrupt productivity.

Malware that can encrypt your data so that you cannot access it without buying a 'key' from the hacker isn't science fiction. It's an everyday threat that causes many businesses real problems. It isn’t just businesses that are being affected either, as whole cities in the USA have been recent victims.

US city attacks

In recent weeks, two cities in Florida have paid out huge sums after being held to ransom in cyber-attacks. Less than a week after the first of these cities agreed to pay $600,000 to hackers, an emergency meeting of the Lake City council voted to pay almost $500,000 in bitcoin.

The government's work in the city had been paralysed for almost two weeks after the malware infection on 10th June, even though IT professionals had reacted by disconnecting systems within ten minutes of detection.

Riviera City had already paid a ransom of 65 bitcoins, worth about $600,000 at the time, just weeks before. Elsewhere, Jackson County in Georgia had also given in to the demands of hackers. Lynn, Massachusetts, Cartersville, Georgia, Baltimore, and Maryland have all been affected as well.

Trickle-down effects

Although it may seem that these major targets have little in common with your business, the fact is that ransomware attacks are becoming more common. Every hacking activity has a trickle-down effect, whereby malicious entities target high-value victims in the first wave.

As the methods become widely-known and the malware used becomes more available, individuals and lower-league hackers start using the same methods and pick on easier targets. It can be seen in the way that so-called 'phishing' attacks are now so commonplace, not only aimed at businesses, but also at individuals.

How to protect yourself

The only sure way to protect yourself against ransomware attacks is by having secure backups, which are automatically updated. Infection can come from a range of sources, including simple human error, so no matter how well-prepared your business is with software and hardware, there is always a risk.

By using cloud services that offer remote storage using the most up-to-date security measures, your business can be up and running again very quickly, even if a ransomware attack is successful and you find yourself locked out of your systems and data.

You should also ensure that your system is up to date as Microsoft no longer supports old versions such as Windows XP or Vista, whereas everything from Windows 7 onwards has already been installed with patches to prevent ransomware attacks like these – just make sure that you enable Automatic Updates to benefit from them.

At GCC, we maintain a proactive approach to hardware and software security. More than this, we also pride ourselves on the responsive support we provide to our customers. It means that if you have any concerns about ransomware attacks, or any other types of cybersecurity issues we are always here to help.

If you want further information on how best to protect your business, we recommend that all GCC customers gain Cyber Essentials accreditation. Learn More>>