Government Hacking and Defending Against Ransomware Attacks

The number of ransomware attacks against public and private entities in the past few years has exploded. What used to be a somewhat uncommon tactic in comparison to phishing and other social engineering approaches is now taking the central spotlight as cyber criminals become aware of a critical shortcoming existent in many businesses and government agencies: a lack of backed up data.

While government offices are bearing the brunt of the onslaught of ransomware, they’re far from the only entities at risk of these costly attacks. Businesses large and small must learn from the spate of government hacking and make their own preparations. Read on to learn why ransomware constitutes such a significant cyber threat, and what can be done to defend against them effectively.

The Rise of Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks refer to the stealing and holding of data to demand a ransom. It represents one of the most dangerous and expensive threats facing organizations today—and hackers have discovered a goldmine.

State and local governments have fallen prey to ransomware attacks. In 2019, two-thirds of all reported ransomware attacks in the United States have targeted municipal, state or regional offices of the US government. Despite their critical functions as part of the management of the country, they’ve proven an easy target for data thieves to extort for cash.

Cybercriminals seize data such as tax archives, utility payment receipts, emails, and phone records. They then encrypt it all and offer to return it to the municipality for a fee. That fee ranges between $50,000—such as the case of Atlanta—to $460,000 for Lake City, Florida.

The FBI recommends that cities not give in to the demands of the attacks. However, according to The New York Times, refusing to pay the ransom cost Atlanta upwards of $17 million. Lake City, on the other hand, paid the ransom as they determined reconstructing their data and IT infrastructure would have cost even more.

Ransomware attacks take advantage of the fact that small municipal offices lack the IT resources, expertise, and infrastructure to develop secure data solutions. What IT resources do exist must focus on keeping the offices running daily. Likewise, tight budgets mean that these offices may be forced to rely on outdated processes for handling their data.

In both cases, things like secure backup storage and leveraging cloud solutions fall by the wayside. Either the department doesn’t have the resources or expertise to implement them, or they don’t have time. As a result, government offices constitute easy, lucrative targets for hackers.

The Role of a Security Assessment

A network assessment is a practical, cost-effective solution to the IT problems which state and local governments often face. It’s a great starting point for any office or organization concerned about the trend of government hacking, but unsure about their defenses. A network assessment:

  • Brings in trained security experts. These inveterate specialists will have a fresh set of eyes and are specifically trained to assess a network on many levels.
  • Helps identify weak points in network security. A network assessment will help spot weak points which the in-house IT department missed.
  • Makes recommendations which work with existing systems. A good managed network services provider will work with existing infrastructure to make adoption easy, effective, and as inexpensive as possible.

As security evolves, it’s a good idea to periodically conduct a network security assessment. It’s one strategy to keep an office’s cyber defenses up to date.

4 Tips to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

Although ransomware attacks target government offices primarily, all organizations should anticipate and prepare for a cyberattack. Consider the following tips to help prepare for and prevent a ransomware attack:

  1. Develop a strategy for keeping important information backed up and secure. Neutralize the allure of ransomware by ensuring the organization has automated backups in a secure location which cannot easily be reached by hackers.
  2. Minimize the attack surface with multi-layered security. A firewall will prevent many hackers, but don’t stop there. Use a multi-layered approach which encompasses network segmentation and access controls to prevent intruders on every level.
  3. Train employees on cybersecurity. Cybercriminals often target employees because they’re busy, stressed out, and not paying attention. Train employees on security best practices and how to spot social engineering tactics.
  4. Leverage a managed network service provider. An MNS provider is a convenient, low-impact and cost-effect solution to developing robust cybersecurity without the need for in-house infrastructure development.

CDS Excels in Helping Government Agencies Defeat Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks represent a serious threat to state and local government offices. Likewise, the trend of government hacking attempts shows no sign of slowing. Public and private offices must develop the means to thwart these costly, damaging attacks.

CDS can help. As specialists with experience in working with government agencies, they have the tools and the means to put ransomware attacks to a stop once and for all.

Get your office cybersecurity up to speed with firewall security, improved backup capabilities and more. Contact CDS today to get started.