Delaware County Pays $500,000 Ransom After Outages

A US county is in the process of paying half-a-million dollars to ransomware extorters who locked its local government network, according to reports.

Pennsylvania’s Delaware County revealed the attack last week, claiming in a notice that it had disrupted “portions of its computer network.

“We commenced an immediate investigation that included taking certain systems offline and working with computer forensic specialists to determine the nature and scope of the event. We are working diligently to restore the functionality of our systems,” it said.

“The investigation is ongoing and we are working with computer forensic specialists to understand the full nature and scope of the event and confirm accurate information before sharing the details. County employees have been notified and provided with information and instructions.”

The county said its Bureau of Elections and Emergency Services Department were not affected, as they are served by separate networks.

However, the news comes as the authority, like much of the US, battles a surge in COVID-19 cases. Over the past four weeks it has seen a 131% increase in positive tests for the virus and a 156% increase in hospitalizations.

That will give attackers an extra incentive to attack public sector and healthcare organizations in the country over the coming months. However, it appears as if Delaware County’s decision to pay up was influenced by virtue of its insurance policy, which reportedly covers ransomware outages.

The largest cause of cyber insurance claims in North America in the first half of 2020 was ransomware, accounting for over two-fifths (41%), according to provider Coalition.

However, there are concerns that the growing take-up of such policies also emboldens cyber-criminals as it makes it more likely that victims will pay-up to regain access to networks quickly.

As long as victims keep paying, ransomware groups will keep launching attacks.

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