Knoxville Ransomware Attack

Knoxville RansomwareThe Knoxville city government was hit by a ransomware attack last week.

The city was forced to take down parts of their public facing website and shut down many of the servers required to do work in the city. The court system had to reschedule all Friday court appearances, and police officers were not responding to non-injury traffic accidents.

The Knoxville mayor, Glenn Jacobs, released a statement Thursday:

“Cyber-attacks can happen to anyone or any government no matter how good the defense is. In a lot of cases it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but a matter of ‘when.’ Our IT department has been in contact with the city and we stand ready to help if they need it.”

Initial reports indicate the breach occurred with the use of a spear phishing attack. Spear phishing is different from a general phishing attack, because the target is known by the criminals. Knoxville is the 51st state or local government to be attacked by ransomware this year. In 2019, 113 state or local governments were breached. The study below shows attacks are on the rise because they often work, and the city is forced to pay the ransom. The study also shows people are still the biggest liability in many of these attacks.

CyberEdge recently released its 2020 Cyberthreat Defense Report. Below are their top five takeaways from the report. They are interesting points to view the Knoxville attack through. Statistically attacks are up, they are up because they are working, and employee education is still one of the largest contributors to the criminal’s success rate.

  1. The bad guys are more active than ever. The percentage of organizations affected by a successful cybersecurity attack had leveled off during the previous three years, but this year it jumped from 78% to 80.7%. Not only that, for the first time ever, 35.7% of organizations experienced six or more successful attacks. The number of respondents saying that a successful attack on their organization is very likely in the coming 12 months also reached a record level.
  2. Ransomware attacks and payments continue to rise. Ransomware is trending in the wrong direction: 62% of organizations were victimized by ransomware last year, up from 56% in 2018 and 55% in 2017. This rise is arguably fueled by the dramatic increase in ransomware payments. 58% of ransomware victims paid a ransom last year, up from 45% in 2019 and 38% in 2017.
  3. People are the biggest problem. The greatest barriers to establishing effective defenses are: (a) lack of skilled IT security personnel and (b) low security awareness among employees. According to respondents, these are more serious than issues like too much data to analyze, lack of management support and budget.
  4. But IT security is having some successes. Respondents say the adequacy of their organization’s IT security capabilities has increased in all eight of the functional areas. They rated these improvements as greatest in application development and testing, identity and access management (IAM), and attack surface reduction through patch management and penetration testing.
  5. Advanced security analytics and machine learning are becoming “must-haves.” Implementations of advanced security analytics took off over the past year and are expected to keep rising. Organizations are showing a strong preference for IT security products that feature machine learning and other forms of AI.

Source: CyberEdge Group

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Posted by Charles Wright