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Ransomware: The hostage taking virus

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Article by Aaron Cleveland, 
Wilson Technologies
460,000 Dollars. That’s how much money Lake City, FL just paid out to get their files back. Files that were previously accessible to them were now being held for ransom by bad actors. Files that contained the entire city’s records for the 12,000 people that live there.  Files that are more than likely considered irreplaceable to the city are held hostage for a sum of money that would be of much better use elsewhere. 

Stories like these are becoming more and more common across the country as ransomware continues its tactic of targeting bigger entities such as local governments and hospitals, hoping the payout is worth the increased risk and so far, this hostage-taking seems to be working out incredibly well for them. Lake City is just one of the many cities that were covered by an insurance policy for ransomware that paid the hostage takers the large sum of money they were asking for. Riviera Beach agreed to pay over $600,000 to get their data back and last year, Jackson County, Georgia agreed to pay around $400,000 to do the same.

Even when the ransom is paid, the trouble is far from over as the city is now spending thousands of dollars doing things like restoration of data, implementation of secure backups systems and network hardening to protect against future ransomware attacks. All things that continue to eat up not only money but time for those that were affected. 

Many are left wondering why the city allowed this to happen in the first place? Local governments have disaster plans in place for a lot of unforeseen troubles and ransomware appears like it should be no different.  

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As payouts like these keep making headlines, we expect ransomware makers to continue on the path of hostage-taking as the payout seems to be more than worth the risk, especially with the rise of insurance policies to cover this exact scenario. I
nsurance policies like these are definitely not cheap and payouts are more than likely going to increase in price as time goes on.

Knowing ransomware is on the rise has a lot of people alarmed at the path many are taking to try and mitigate the damage that it causes. Preferred methods among many local governments and other businesses generally include the previously mentioned insurance policies as the established method to “protect” themselves against ransomware but these policies are only able to help in the aftermath of an attack as opposed to a more comprehensive solutions that stands to prevent the ransomware from the start. 

All of that is starting to change with more people taking proactive measures to keep their data and networks safe from those that are looking to harm it. 

Proactive measures such as multiple data backups can be the difference between a simple file restore and paying out thousands of dollars in ransom money just to get back what was already yours. 

Network hardening through advanced security measures and technologies can help detect the attack before it ever gets a chance to start wreaking havoc on local computer systems. 

Technologies and approaches like this are readily available and generally cost effective to implement system wide.

So why do so many local governments and businesses still insist on taking the afterthought approach when it comes to ransomware? Generally, it’s simply a case of being misinformed of the dangers and costs surrounding ransomware. 

To many, it may seem more of an inconvenience and that it is easier to have an insurance policy for the damage than it is to implement appropriate protections prior to an incident. 

While it may simply seem like a case of the easy way out when it comes to planning, you wouldn’t watch a hurricane approach and not take any preventative measures. 

No, it is simply a matter of being misinformed to the dangers and the general ease of proper preventative measures.
Ransomware is just the first in a new age of digital hostage taking and blackmailing. 

With more and more data being stored digitally, it is important for everyone to be as proactive in their digital security as possible, less they end up like one of the many people stuck deciding how important those files were and if they are worth forking over money to get them back.

For more information about ransomware prevention and security measures, visit www.wilsontechgroup.com or call 352-796-9891

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