When A City Had To Pay Ransom To Cyber Criminals!

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While the rapid advancement in technology surely did gift us with newer and more powerful devices, be it smartphones or iPads, it also contributed heavily to the growth of numerous malicious agents and threat actors.

In recent incident, what can only be seen as a bizarre first-time event, an entire city ended up paying a whopping $45,000 because of a ransomware attack.

On July 27th, the city of Lafayette in Colorado, US was targeted with a vicious ransomware attack by some anonymous threat actors that encrypted the entire city’s computer networks. 

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Once infected with the ransomware, the city’s computer network started acting up, which then began causing significant disruptions to phone services, email and online payment gateways, and reservation systems.

After examining the incident thoroughly, the city officials of Lafayette reached the decision that they must opt to surrender and pay the cybercriminals who were responsible for the attack because they didn’t have a solution that could be quicker or cost-effective. Thus, they ended up paying the generous amount of $45,000 to the threat actors and finally got rid of it.

Later on, when things were resolved, it was found out that the ransomware, which still remains to be identified, made it’s way to the city’s network via sneaky phishing or brute force attack. 

No, this attack wasn’t a part of an extensively orchestrated and targetted campaign, but it was set out to infect all vulnerable systems it could make its way to.

The Mayor of Lafayette Jamie Harkins, in a video statement, said that they are making sure they are doing everything they can to make sure their city doesn’t fall victim to a similar attack in the future. 

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As of now, the city has been installing new backups and is deploying additional cybersecurity protocols across their entire network, which will do regular assessments when it comes to vulnerability and security loopholes.

Interestingly, through this particular news, it came to light that cities are now becoming a prevalent victim of ransomware attacks because of severe budget constraints. More than often, most cities do not have a fully up-to-date cybersecurity framework that can keep ransomware like these from entering the network.

In the case of Lafayette city, one could say that they were fortunate enough to get rid of cybercriminals by paying just $45,000. It has been observed that in many other cases ransom figures are ridiculously astronomical even to be considered seriously. Some US cities have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to cybercriminals to return to their network.

According to the data from Coveware, in Q4 2019, the average payment to release files from ransomware attack went up to $84,116.

Source: Coveware

Does Paying Ransomeware Guarantee Network Restoration?

No, there is no guarantee of network restoration if someone decides to give in and pay the ransomware amount. It is impossible to know if the threat actor has any conscience whatsoever. In some cases, ransomware deployers have taken the money and then provided faulty decryption keys, which didn’t work.

It’s quite evident that precaution is probably the best measure that one needs to employ, be it individuals, cities, or organizations. To avoid falling victim to such attacks, one must ensure that they keep themselves updated with information about these security threats regularly. 

One must also apply every single security patch that is pushed for various software and platforms and apply a multi-factor authentication layer across their network because it will prevent hackers from gaining control of essential accounts, systems, and servers.

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