municipality ransomware

Arresting Ransomware: How Municipalities Can Fight Back

May 10, 2017 | By

These days, it seems that no organization is immune to ransomware. From San Francisco’s public transit system to a New Jersey municipality to police departments all over the U.S., government agencies in particular have become a popular target for hackers. According to Symantec’s new Internet and Security Threat Report, the number of ransomware attacks tripled in the last year alone, and the average ransom demand rose to a whopping $1,077, up from $294 a year earlier. These numbers don’t include lost productivity or damage to the organization’s reputation.

Being on the ground floor of ransomware detection, we’ve helped organizations ranging from sheriff’s departments to town governments recover after being hit hard by some downright nasty ransomware (a specific type of malware) lately, and we’d like to offer advice on how to fight back.

The Growing Ransomware Problem

Ransomware is particularly troubling for state and local departments with “happy clickers”, as we like to call it. Employees are often not well-trained on today’s security threats, and as a result, prone to accidentally clicking on malicious links. According to the same Symantec report, email has resurged as a favorite attack channel, with one in every 131 emails sent being malicious. This can spell bad news for businesses who have not addressed their “happy clicker” problem.

When a ransomware link is clicked (usually via email), it leads the user to a malicious site that their device communicates with (in the background without the user knowing it) with the goal of locking up the device and demanding monetary compensation in order to regain access. With critical data ranging from contracts to arrest records to financial reports and more, municipalities can’t afford to be taken hostage by a ransomware hack, and they certainly don’t have the budget to pay the hackers (nor do they want to succumb to blackmail payments).

With over 460,000 ransomware attacks detected in the last year alone, ransomware has officially entered the ranks as a serious threat to the security of businesses and municipalities alike. With no time to spare and tight budgets, not to mention citizens who may lose their confidence in governance following an attack, it’s time to take a more strategic stance against ransomware to protect both municipal organizations and their constituents.

Turning the Table on Ransomware

Cleaning up from the damage caused by ransomware is costly from both the time and money perspectives (especially if you decide to pay up — which can cost upwards of $1,000 per ransom today). Many municipal organizations turn to Strongarm to automatically protect their network from malware of all types, knowing that firewalls and antivirus solutions no longer cut it. That’s because the moment Strongarm is added to a network, attacks can no longer slip past defenses. Strongarm’s alternative domain name system (DNS) uses continually updated lists of known malware domains to stop attacks from succeeding.

Going one step further, Strongarm is able to speak malware (as opposed to the traditional “block and drop” approach). When Strongarm sees an infection, it starts to talk to the infected machine, and from this conversation can determine which machine is infected and gather information about the malware. With this information, clean-up and remediation are a snap.

For example, one sheriff’s department in the southern U.S. was being continuously hit by ransomware, threatening the security and productivity of the entire department. Since they started using Strongarm, not one attack has been successful. Strongarm’s blackhole technology automatically finds, investigates, and neutralizes threats like ransomware, which has made a big impact on their time to resolution.

With less time spent on cleaning up infections, they have more time to spend on proactive IT and cybersecurity functions. And because Strongarm prevents ransomware from successfully locking down any devices, employees are more productive and business can proceed as usual.

The Results: Ensuring Your Happy Clickers are Safe Clickers

Even by educating your users, it’s not realistic to assume that no bad link will ever get clicked on, especially in a busy municipal office. With Strongarm, government entities, municipalities, agencies, and any type of business can gain peace of mind knowing they are automatically protected against malware attacks (including ransomware) when that click happens.
Strongarm can be deployed in under 10 minutes per network. Cross malware off your list of worries with Strongarm’s simple and automated solution.

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