2020 was a great year for ransomware gangs. For hospitals, schools, municipal governments, and everyone else, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

AT THE END of September, an emergency room technician in the United States gave WIRED a real-time account of what it was like inside their hospital as a ransomware attack raged. With their digital systems locked down by hackers, health care workers were forced onto backup paper systems. They were already straining to manage patients during the pandemic; the last thing they needed was more chaos. “It is a life-or-death situation,” the technician said at the time.

The same scenario was repeated around the country this year, as waves of ransomware attacks crashed down on hospitals and health care provider networks, peaking in September and October. School districts, meanwhile, were walloped by attacks that crippled their systems just as students were attempting to come back to class, either in person or remotely. Corporations and local and state governments faced similar attacks at equally alarming rates.

Ransomware has been around for decades, and it’s a fairly straightforward attack: Hackers distribute malware that mass-encrypts data or otherwise blocks access to a target’s systems, and then demand payment to release the digital hostages. It’s a well-known threat, but one that’s difficult to eradicate—something as simple as clicking a link or downloading a malicious attachment could give attackers the foothold they need. And even without that type of human error, large corporations and other institutions like municipal governments still struggle to devote the resources and expertise necessary to lay down basic defenses. After watching these attacks in 2020, though, incident responders say that the problem has escalated and that the ransomware forecast for next year looks pretty dire.

Source: Ransomware Is Headed Down a Dire Path



Dealing with a Ransomware Attack: A full guide