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Nearly 70 US Government Organizations Hit by Ransomware Since January

Ransomware gangs, intent on stealing American dollars, have struck at least 621 targets in the US government, education, and healthcare sectors since January. 

report into stateside ransomware attacks, released on October 1 by antivirus company Emisoft, which is an associate partner in Europol’s No More Ransom Project, paints a picture of a nation in a serious cyber-predicament. 

At least 68 state, county, and municipal entities have been impacted by this particular type of attack since the beginning of the year. In just one attack on Baltimore, MD, carried out in May using the ransomware RobbinHood, recovery costs are estimated to have been $18.2 million. 

A Ryuk attack on Lake City, FL, in June led to insurers forking over a $460,000 ransom minus a $10,000 deductible, and only part of the data affected was recovered. 

So far this year, there have been at least 62 ransomware incidents involving school districts and other educational establishments, which potentially impacted operations at up to 1,051 individual schools, colleges, and universities.

The healthcare sector has suffered just under 500 attacks since this year's ball drop in Times Square heralded the start of 2019.

Fabian Wosar, Emisoft CTO, told Infosecurity Magazine: "When we look at absolute numbers in all areas—business, government, and home users—ransomware is on the decline. However, this is mostly due to the fact that ransomware gangs focus on business and government targets these days instead of the large-scale spray-and-pray attacks against home users that were dominant just a few years ago. So, while the pressure on home users went down dramatically, it skyrocketed for those other areas."

Describing the biggest ransomware payout he had come across, Wosar said: "The biggest confirmed payout I have seen was $700,000, but I cannot disclose specific details about that case."

How an organization decides to deal with a ransomware attack has a major bearing on whether it will be re-targeted at a later date. 

Wosar told Infosecurity Magazine: "What definitely will make you a big target is if you got ransomed and paid. During a lot of these attacks we have seen ransomware groups leave behind backdoors that allow them to access the systems again in the future. Given this backdoor access and your willingness to pay for your data, you become a prime target for a second attack later down the line."

Sharing his predictions on how ransomware attacks will evolve, Wosar said: "I believe that attacks on organizations with outsourced infrastructure and IT will become increasingly common. The tools used by MSPs and other service providers act as a gateway to their clients’ systems and, as we saw in the Texas and PercSoft incidents, enable multiple organizations to be ransomed in one fell swoop."

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