May 28, 2021, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
Most of us have heard about ransomware and have a vague idea of what it means. Few of us realize the huge cost, time, operational disruptions, and data/security breaches that it poses. Recently large government entities, pipelines, hospitals, businesses of all sizes and individuals have been hit.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of computer malware (virus) that threatens to publish confidential data or forever block access to data until a ransom is paid. Simple forms of ransomware simply lock your system and may be easy to reverse for someone with the knowledge and tools. Other ransomware uses extortion to ensure they are paid.
Security agencies, the police and government in Canada are all warning that ransomware attacks against critical Canadian businesses and infrastructure are almost certain to continue. The Communications Security Establishment’s (CSE) Centre of Cyber Security released a threat assessment last fall stating:
“Over the past two years, targeting of industrial processes and ransomware attacks have become regular occurrences resulting in major impacts, including reputational damage, productivity loss, legal repercussions, recovery expenses, and damage to infrastructure and operations,”
Industry experts have been warning of this issue for years. ITWorld Canada reported this month on the trend begun by ransomware attackers of dropping the encryption threat entirely in favour of focussing on data theft and blackmail to enrich itself. Until now the threat to the form of “pay for the keys to decrypt your data or we’ll release it and embarrass you and your customers”. This would result in the loss of credibility and business and data for the company and may even result in lawsuits.
Who is Vulnerable?
Everyone. Recent cases that have hit the news include a gas pipeline in America, hospitals and municipal governments in Ontario, and small, medium and large businesses throughout Canada. Individuals are routinely hit as well. Many cases are not reported to the police by business due to the negative impact on reputation.
IT consultants who specialize in backup and security have endless examples of the types of clients they get calls from daily.
How does this happen?
Most companies do not protect the data effectively on their company servers. Sensitive data on the servers must be protected and backed up securely - ideally mirrored so that it is backed up in real-time. Many companies also do not adequately protect the contents and access to emails that contain sensitive information. All this information sits in the email boxes of employees and must be protected with more than a simple email password.
Who is conducting these attacks?
Organized and sophisticated gangs are responsible for these attacks in some cases, while in others it is sponsored by the government. Governments around the world gather data, access hard currency, and do economic harm in shows of force. Countries suspected of using malware include Russia, China, North Korea, and America. Their goals are varied but can easily cripple infrastructure and result in compromised or lost data.
What can you do to decrease your risk?
Personal life: Never click on links in emails or texts that come from people you don’t know. Even if you know someone double-check the link address in the context of the email. If it’s suspicious don’t open it. Get a secure backup system that you use every day and secure it, and a good virus scanner.
At work: Follow the above guideline and follow all company protocols and do not try to circumvent security measures simply because they are inconvenient.
If you've been hit
Consult with a knowledgeable IT consultant. You won't be able to fix this problem on your own. Talk to your insurance company as well.