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Thursday, 09 July 2020 06:10

Ransomware attacks on US public sector fell in 1H2020, but rising again: study

Ransomware attacks on US public sector fell in 1H2020, but rising again: study Courtesy Shutterstock

The number of successful ransomware attacks on US public sector bodies fell during the period from January to April month-on-month even as the COVID-19 crisis intensified, but that trend now appears to be reversing, the New zealand-headquartered security firm Emsisoft says.

In a blog post, which took in attacks during the first two calendar quarters, the company, which specialises in ransomware research, said the trend reversal could be due to the fact that employees were now returning to their offices. Else, it could be the normal seasonal spike.

In 2019, Emsisoft released a report about attacks on US public sector bodies wherein it said that at least 948 government agencies healthcare providers and educational establishments being hit at a cost estimated to be about US$7.5 billion.

This year, at least 131 federal healthcare providers and educational establishments had taken a hit from various Windows ransomware packages, the company said. The breakdown by month was: January – 39. February – 38, March – 12, April – 10, May – 15, and June – 14.

By sector, 60 government entities were hit, with the breakdown being: January – 19, February – 12, March – 7, April – 5, May – 8 and June – 9.

Forty-one hospitals and healthcare providers were hit; the breakdown was January – 10, February – 16, March – 3, April – 3, May – 4, and June – 5.

And 30 school districts and other educational organisations made up the remainder with the breakdown being January – 10, February – 12, March – 2, April – 2 and May – 4. There were no attacks in June.

The blog post pointed out that studies by academics and also audits had shown time and again that the US public sector had poor cyber security practices.

Emsisoft chief technology officer Fabian Wosar said: "[The year] 2020 need not be a repeat of 2019. Proper levels of investment in people, processes and IT would result in significantly fewer ransomware incidents and those incidents which did occur would be less severe, less disruptive and less costly.”

In March, Emsisoft announced that it had partnered with incident response company Coveware to offer free assistance to critical care hospitals and other healthcare providers who are on the front lines of tackling the coronavirus pandemic and suffer a Windows ransomware attack.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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