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Texas ransomware attacks: to pay or not to pay? | TECH(feed)

CSO Online | Aug 22, 2019

Nearly two dozen cities in Texas have been hit by a ransomware attack executed by a single threat actor. These attacks beg the question: Is it ever worth it to pay a cyber attacker’s ransom? In this episode of TECH(feed), Juliet discusses the pattern of ransomware attacks on local governments, how municipalities have responded and how to prevent a ransomware attack in the first place.

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OVER TWENTY CITIES IN TEXAS WERE JUST HIT BY WHAT APPEARS TO BE A COORDINATED RANSOMWARE ATTACK. NOW THEY’RE ASKING THE QUESTION: TO PAY OR… NOT TO PAY? LET’S TALK CYBER ATTACKS ON CITIES… STICK AROUND.

SO THOSE TWENTY-SOMETHING TEXAS CITIES ARE THE LATEST TO BE HIT BY A RANSOMWARE ATTACK… BUT THEY’RE FAR FROM THE FIRST. YOU MIGHT REMEMBER THAT THE CITY OF BALTIMORE WAS TARGETED BY A RANSOMWARE ATTACK JUST A FEW MONTHS AGO… BUT MORE ON THAT IN A SECOND. EFFECTS OF THE ATTACKS MAY VARY CITY TO CITY, BUT SOME RESIDENTS CAN’T PAY UTILITY BILLS, THEY CAN’T ACCESS BIRTH OR DEATH CERTIFICATES… IT’S FRUSTRATING. AND SURE, THESE CITIES COULD MAKE THE PROBLEM GO AWAY BY JUST PAYING THE ATTACKERS. BUT IT’S NOT THAT EASY.

THE GENERAL ATTITUDE OF MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS TOWARDS RANSOMWARE PRETTY CLEAR. AT THE UNITED STATES CONFERENCE OF MAYORS A COUPLE MONTHS AGO, MAYORS PASSED A RESOLUTION ABOUT THIS VERY TOPIC. AND THE RESOLUTION BASICALLY SAYS.. DON’T PAY IT. BUT SOMETIMES THE COST OF RECOVERING FROM AN ATTACK IS SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN JUST PAYING THE ATTACKERS. LIKE I SAID EARLIER, THE CITY OF BALTIMORE WAS THE VICTIM OF A RANSOMWARE ATTACK BACK IN MAY. ATTACKERS ASKED FOR 76 THOUSAND DOLLARS. THE CITY REFUSED TO PAY, AND THE ATTACK ULTIMATELY COST IT 18 MILLION DOLLARS IN RECOVERY FEES AND LOST REVENUE. OTHER CITIES HAVE DECIDED TO JUST CAVE TO ATTACKERS AND PAY THE RANSOM, REASONING IT’S EASIER AND CHEAPER. AND SOMETIMES INSURANCE WILL PICK UP MOST OF THE TAB.

NOW BACK TO TEXAS. THIS IS A PRETTY LARGE SCALE RANSOMWARE ATTACK, ASSUMED TO BE EXECUTED BY A SINGLE THREAT ACTOR. THE F-B-I HAS GOTTEN INVOLVED, AND THE AGENCY ALSO TAKES A PRETTY FIRM STANCE AGAINST PAYING RANSOMS. BUT WE DON’T KNOW FOR SURE WHETHER OR NOT CITIES WILL CAVE AND PAY ATTACKERS. THE REASONING AGAINST PAYING RANSOMS IS THAT IT REWARDS THIS BAD BEHAVIOR AND THEREFORE BREEDS MORE ATTACKS. BUT, AS WE KNOW, SOMETIMES NOT PAYING AN ATTACK CAN COST WAY, WAY MORE THAN PAYING. OF COURSE, THE BEST WAY TO AVOID PAYING FOR A RANSOMWARE ATTACK IS TO ACTIVELY PREVENT ONE. DELETING AND REPORTING SUSPICIOUS-LOOKING EMAILS AND KEEPING SYSTEMS UP TO DATE ARE IMPORTANT STEPS TO PREVENT CYBER CRIMINALS FROM ACCESSING YOUR NETWORK.
THANKS FOR WATCHING THIS EPISODE OF TECH FEED. IF YOU LIKED THIS VIDEO BE SURE TO GIVE IT A THUMBS UP AND SUBSCRIBE TO OUR CHANNEL. AND IF YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR PREVENTING A CYBER ATTACK, LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS BELOW. SEE YOU NEXT TIME.
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