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Saturday, 11 July 2020 08:40

Ransomware suspected in attack on Canada Defence Academy Featured

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Ransomware suspected in attack on Canada Defence Academy Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The website and email systems of Canada's Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, part of the country's National Defence department, have been taken offline following what has been said to be a ransomware attack, a report says.

ITWorld Canada reported on 9 July that the department was still evaluating the damage, with a Department of National Defence official unwilling to confirm that ransomware was the cause.

A DND media statement was quoted as saying, “all early indications suggest this incident resulted from a mass phishing campaign".

The Globe and Mail, a big Canadian newspaper, said National Defence had confirmed that the attack had affected the network at the Canada Defence Academy which includes the RMC and three institutions in Quebec and Ontario.

RMC dean of engineering Greg Phillips, however, blamed the attack on ransomware. On his own website, Phillips wrote: "The RMC network has been attacked by ransomware. This is a software that exploits security holes to install itself, then encrypts the contents of disks and demands a ransom to decrypt and restore access to the data."

Contacted for comment, Brett Callow, a ransomware threat researcher with New Zealand-headquartered security shop Emsisoft, said: "Unconfirmed reports suggest this is a ransomware incident. Approximately 120 government entities in North America were impacted by ransomware in 2019, and, at this point, it looks like a similar number will be impacted in 2020.

"But this year's incidents will be different. In 2019, only the Maze group stole data and they didn't start doing so until November. In 2020, multiple groups steal data so some of these incidents will be data breaches.

"Unless governments act quickly to improve their security, it is inevitable that some will victims of data theft and have their information, and their residents' information, posted online. "

Ninety-nine percent of ransomware works only on the Windows operating system. Various groups use the same ransomware, which encrypts files on the victims' systems and generates a ransom note. The data is exfiltrated by scripts, usually written in PowerShell, before the ransomware is deployed.

This is why many infosec companies recommend the disabling of PowerShell unless it is really needed.

The gangs then wait for a reaction from the victims. If there is none, after the deadline they have set is over, they start publishing information in drips and drabs on the dark web to put pressure on their victims to pay up. As time goes on, more and more data is leaked.

If the ransom is never paid — these days many companies tend to have good backups from which they can restore their systems — then these gangs publish the data on dark web forums as well, from where it may be picked up and used by others for any one of numerous nefarious purposes.


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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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