Local governments are 'biggest ransomware target' in 2020

Local government bodies are the most likely target for ransomware cyber attacks, according to new threat spotlight research from Barracuda Networks.

The research, which identified and analysed 71 global ransomware incidents in the last 12 months, found that 44 per cent of all observed ransomware attacks in 2020 have been aimed at councils.

Barracuda researchers also observed that ransomware attacks facing global education and healthcare institutions are on the rise, in a malicious attempt to capitalise on the Coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, the percentage of ransomware attacks facing education institutions has more than doubled from six per cent to 15 per cent between 2019 and 2020. Healthcare, however, has seen a two per cent increase in ransomware attacks, rising from 21 per cent of all recorded global attacks in 2019 to 23 per cent in 2020.

Logistics-related attacks are also on the rise. Six notable ransomware attacks were examined since last July.

Of the cases studied, 14 per cent were confirmed to have paid the ransom, and the average payment was roughly £1.26 million.

This equates to 15 per cent of local councils making ransomware payments, which is a significant change compared to last year, when almost no local governments paid any ransom. In one example, a ransomware attack on Redcar and Cleveland council’s computer system reportedly cost the local authority £10.4 million.

Fleming Shi, chief technology officer for Barracuda Networks, commented: “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 organisation."

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 file until a ransom is paid.

With the pandemic putting millions of workers at home, cyber criminals 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 cyber criminals to compromise them, move laterally to business networks, and launch ransomware attacks.

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