Security & Fraud

Ransomware Hits Pennsylvania Senate Democrats

On Friday morning, Pennsylvania state Senate Democrats reportedly found themselves locked out of their official computer network.

NBC News reported that Pennsylvania Republican senators, who use a different computer network, were unaffected by the ransomware. As of Friday evening, law enforcement agencies and Microsoft were reportedly working to free the network, according to a statement from Pennsylvania Democratic Senate Leader Jay Costa. Additionally, both the state Attorney General’s office and FBI were reportedly called in to investigate the incident.

As of now, it is not known if the cybercriminals have made any demands for the release of the Pennsylvania state Senate Democrats’ computer network, or if the attack was politically motivated.

Trend Micro recently found that ransomware cyberthreats hit an all-time high last year. Ransomware and Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams increased in popularity in 2016, seeing a 752 percent jump in new ransomware families, which resulted in $1 billion in losses for enterprises worldwide.

“As threats have diversified and grown in sophistication, cybercriminals have moved on from primarily targeting individuals to focusing on where the money is: enterprises,” said Ed Cabrera, chief cybersecurity officer for Trend Micro. “Throughout 2016, we witnessed threat actors extort companies and organizations for the sake of profitability, and we don’t anticipate this trend slowing down.”

Further, SonicWall Global Response Intelligent Defense (GRID) Threat Network found that while total malware attack attempts dropped in 2016, down to 7.87 billion from 8.19 billion in 2015, ransomware attacks increased from 3.8 million in 2015 to a whopping 638 million in 2016.

Late last year, Los Angeles Valley College found itself victim of a ransomware attack. The college’s electronic files had all been encrypted, and campus email, voicemail and computer system services had been interrupted. Hackers sent the college a ransom note demanding payment in bitcoin within seven days for a private key to regain access to the files. The Los Angeles Valley College District decided to pay the digital ransom, which amounted to $28,000 in bitcoin.

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