There has been a spate of ransomware attacks on cities, municipalities, mayor’s offices, and local government facilities in recent weeks.

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The latest attack was on La Porte County in Indiana. The attack started on July 6, 2019, but prompt action by the IT department allowed the ransomware to be contained. That rapid response meant only 7% of the laptops used by the county were affected. However, two domain controllers were also affected and that rendered the network unavailable.

Experts were brought in to try to restore files from backups and bring the network back online, but those attempts failed as the backup servers had also been infected with the ransomware. La Porte County was left with no alternative other than to pay the ransom demand. The Bitcoin ransom equated to around $130,000, $100,000 of which was covered by an insurance policy.

This attack involved Ryuk ransomware – The same ransomware variant that was used in the attack on Lake City in Florida on June 10, 2019.  For Lake City, Ryuk ransomware was delivered by the Trickbot Trojan, which was in turn deployed by the Emotet Trojan. Lake City paid approximately $500,000 to the attackers to obtain the keys to unlock the encryption. Riviera Beach in Florida was also attacked and paid a ransom of around $600,000.

These are just three cases out of several recent attacks. Those three attacks alone have resulted in more than $1,200,000 being paid to cybercriminals. That sends a very clear message to other cybercriminals that these attacks can be extremely profitable. That is the reason the FBI advice is never to pay.

2018 saw a decline in ransomware attacks as cybercriminals pursued other strategies for attacking businesses, but ransomware is now certainly back in favor and is being used in an increasing number of attacks.

Something that several of the targets in the recent ransomware campaigns have in common is they are relatively small cities that have limited resources to devote to cybersecurity. They have hardware and software that has reached end of life and, due to limited funds, security gaps have started to appear.

Riviera Beach, for instance, is a city of 35,000 people with limited resources. It had recently undergone a period of turmoil in management, had suffered scandals, and during the upheaval its cybersecurity contract had been allowed to lapse. That left the door wide open to attack.

These attacks have proven incredibly costly, yet they could have been prevented with a very small spend on a select number of security solutions. The attacks on Rivera Beach and Lake City could have been prevented with an advanced email security solution such as SpamTitan. The ransomware was installed in both of these attacks as a result of employees opening malware-infected email attachments.

SpamTitan incorporates dual anti-virus engines to detect malicious software and a Bitdefender-powered sandbox for deep analysis of suspicious email attachments. SpamTitan incorporates DMARC email authentication to counter email impersonation attacks and a host of other anti-spam and anti-phishing controls.

SpamTitan can be deployed as a gateway solution on existing hardware or as a cloud-based solution, and can be easily layered on top of Office 365 to improve protection against phishing and ransomware attacks.

Further, the cost of protection against ransomware and phishing attacks is likely to be much lower than you think. For more information, contact TitanHQ today.