Campus News

Cybersecurity Month: Ransomware Attacks Becoming Massive Threats

People sitting, working on laptops
Ransomware is becoming a massive threat all across the world.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 15, 2019) — University of Kentucky Information Technology Services (ITS) offers information to the UK community during National Cybersecurity Month. This week the topic is ransomware. Ransomware attacks have been a growing concern since 2016, as the criminal practice continues to make a resurgence.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system or computer files until a sum of money is paid. Most ransomware variants encrypt the files on the affected computer, making them inaccessible, and demand a ransom payment to restore access. If people subject themselves to simply paying off the attackers, more harm could be done regarding how ransomware attackers operate.

A recent report by Health IT Security stated that, within the health care sector, ransomware attacks have become a major growing trend costing people millions of dollars.

Companies have either refused to pay the ransomware, thus being subjected to rebuilding databases and spending large sums of money in attempts to recover lost or locked data, or simply paid the actual ransom. Whichever the case, health care companies have reported significant losses.

In just 2019, 70 ransomware attacks have occurred within the first half of the year, with more than 50 of them being targeted cities according to a report by CBS News. The New York Times attributes these cyber-attacks on municipalities to criminal ransomware attackers who presume that smaller cities will have less security, resulting in easier access for a potential breach. NPR reported that 22 cities across Texas were hit with some kind of ransomware attack in the summer of 2019, costing that state millions of dollars. 

The Times story said not only do these attacks result in large sums spent for recovery, but they also present a loss of confidence in the integrity of systems that handle basic services such as water, power and emergency communications.

There are tools that are made for combating these security breaches, but there needs to be a centralized collaborative focus in regard to further developing these security systems. The more collaboration and interest that goes toward development for decryption tools, the less end users will have to deal with ransomware attacks.

To learn more about what can you do to protect yourself from cyber threats click here.

In addition, the ITS Cybersecurity Team is available by request to present to colleges, department staff meetings, classes, clubs, etc. To request a presentation, please email ITSaboutYou@uky.edu. Follow along on Twitter @ITS_UKY

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