Local governments are the biggest target of ransomware attacks in 2020

LONDON, 27th August 2020 – Local government bodies are the most likely target for ransomware cyber attacks, according to new threat spotlight research from Barracuda Networks – the trusted partner and leading provider for cloud-enabled security solutions. The research, which identified and analyzed 71 global ransomware incidents in the last 112 months, found that 44 percent of all observed ransomware attacks in 2020 have been aimed at municipalities.

Worryingly, Barracuda researchers also observed that ransomware attacks facing global education and healthcare institutions are on the rise, in a malicious attempt to capitalize on the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the percentage of ransomware attacks facing education institutions has more than doubled from 6 percent to 15 percent between 2019 and 2020. Healthcare, however, has seen a 2 percent increase in ransomware attacks, rising from 21 percent of all recorded global attacks in 2019 to 23 percent in 2020.

Logistics-related attacks are also on the rise. Six notable ransomware attacks were examined since last July. These attacks on logistics companies can seriously hamper the ability to move goods, including medical equipment, personal protective equipment, and everyday products.

Of the cases studied, 14 per cent were confirmed to have paid the ransom, and the average payment was $1,652,66 (roughly £1,260,000).

What’s more, a full 15 percent of the municipalities are confirmed to have made ransomware payments, which is a significant change compared to last year, when almost no local governments paid any ransom. In one prolific example, a ransomware attack on Redcar and Cleveland council’s computer system in the UK, reportedly cost the local authority £10.4 million.

Fleming Shi, CTO for Barracuda Networks, comments:

“The quantity of ransomware attacks facing all types of organizations have been growing rapidly in recent years, having been spurred on by complicated geopolitical circumstances, more recently the coronavirus pandemic, and the fact that ransom payments from corporations and municipalities are becoming more common.

“Combatting this issue requires blocking the threat from the source, using advanced inbound and outbound security techniques that go beyond the traditional gateway. This includes using machine-learning enabled software to close the technical and human error gaps often found in an organization.

“Other techniques such as subscribing to IP blacklists, using advanced firewalls and malware detection, implementing user-awareness training, and utilizing data backup solutions, are all very effective and strongly advised.”

Ransomware attacks involve the use of malicious software, often delivered via an email attachment or URL link, to infest the network and lock an email, data, or other critical files until a ransom is paid. With the pandemic putting millions of workers at home, cybercriminals gained a larger attack surface as the result of the fast and widespread shift to remote work, and the weak security of home networks makes it easier for cybercriminals to compromise them, move laterally to business networks, and launch ransomware attacks.

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