Local Government Workers, Brace for Ransomware Attack

June 27, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

Local government, like the township offices, the county road commission, and things like that, are commonly thought of as highly-stable sinecures, jobs largely immune to loss except from the most horrific recessions. They’re almost never thought of as a target for ransomware, but new reports from several sources suggest that they should be.

The new reports note that 38 percent of public-sector operations will suffer a ransomware hit this year. That’s up from 31 percent just last year, and from 13 percent in 2016, suggesting that the pace is steadily on the rise. In fact, the Ponemon Institute reports suggest that local government ransomware attacks are on the rise at a faster clip than private sector ransomware.

The Public Risk Management Association in Alexandria, Virginia sounded a note of assent, pointing out that ransomware was “…just now coming after the public entities. They’ve been hitting the businesses for years.”

Local governments are at a particular disadvantage here, since they’re often ill-prepared and not boasting the very best in cybersecurity personnel. Such salaries often run in the six-figure range, well out of a local government’s pocketbook. While that also limits the value of the targets, many cybercriminals are likely counting on volume to make up for the lack of a hefty payday.

Cities like Leeds in Alabama, and even some school systems, are paying up rather than take the hit, and that’s contributing to an increase in attacks. When ransomware is more effective, then more people use ransomware in a bid to get money, especially out of local government organizations that have already shown they’re willing to fork over some cash to anyone brazen enough to fire ransomware at them.

The problem, of course, is that local government doesn’t yet seem aware that beating ransomware is easy, and doesn’t really require top-notch cybersecurity professionals. Keeping your records backed up regularly, and offsite—some cloud services run 15-minute interval backups—will go a long way. Since ransomware depends on locking up your files and holding them for ransom, having copies of your files somewhere else that’s not connected to the network or Internet will go a long way.

So back up your files, and test those backups regularly; if you know you can recover from a complete loss of files, you can face ransomware.