While ransomware attacks have been around for some time, bad actors are now specifically targeting some of the most vulnerable networks in the country. As the private sector has been dealing with this curse for years and strengthened their defenses, government networks are now the prime target for bad actors. Local governments face many challenges regarding the state of their digital technology (often well-publicized), which is why virtual hostage-takers are now focusing more and more of their efforts on bringing down municipal IT infrastructure.
Ransomware is polymorphic, which makes it harder to identify and track throughout a network. Once the lousy code exists in the network, it will duplicate itself and may even alter its signature according to the information found within the system. This makes the process of repairing an infected system extremely difficult and a challenge for even the best network security engineers.
Recent Ransomware Attacks on Government Agencies
Missoula County (just like any other) faces a real threat every day. By May 2019, twenty different municipal districts experienced some form of a ransomware attack. Although some could thwart the attempts, others paid dearly to restore their systems. The ransom amounts vary, but at least three different local governments paid six-figure amounts in bitcoin (an untraceable currency) to the hackers.
The difference between an ordinary hack and a ransomware attack is that the actors remain patient. They target the users with the credentials needed to disable the entire system. Once the software penetrates the network’s security defenses, it encrypts all the available data on the web (taking it hostage) with a splash-screen providing details on how to pay the ransom. If the entity coughs up the money, a decryption key enables them to restore the system.
Some IT directors experience over 180,000 attempts to infiltrate their system annually. The risk of a slip up exists every day for every government agency with an internet-facing network. What’s worse is that any email can be a vehicle for a virus to enter the network. Users may think they are clicking on a valid link, only to discover that they’ve opened the system’s front door to a bad actor.
Challenges Facing Missoula Government Agencies
The common problems that face government data networks span everything from legacy infrastructure to reduced budgets and overworked IT staff. This makes them the perfect mark for running a system exploit operation. While the public may be under the impression that these attacks are the work of a singular individual, the truth is that ransomware exploits are so popular that entire teams target a single entity. With persistent attempts over time, eventually, someone will make a mistake that leads to a successful breach.
Other common challenges facing state and local governments include:
- A lack of expertise and technical resources well versed in network security
- Reduced monitoring capabilities that lead to less oversight of their digital infrastructure
- Very little federal support for cybersecurity-related defense
The current wave of ransomware attacks also uses savvy (even socially engineered), direct assaults at individuals in the public service, who may not be aware that their online behavior creates additional exposure. While local governments are waking up and cybersecurity awareness is becoming a mandatory part of staff training, some attacks no longer rely on a phishing campaign to gain access.
Instead, they look for open source software used at an agency and create specific attacks for areas where known exploits exist. With a strained budget and a shortage of staff, patching every server with the latest security fixes remains a difficult task.
How Managed IT Helps Secure Government Agencies
Managed IT provides agencies with everything needed to counter a ransomware attack. Advanced endpoint scanning and firewalls ensure no malicious code reaches the intended target, while data backup and recovery policies allow government agencies to restore a system if a breach succeeds. Additionally, access to a pool of technical resources that cover both public and private customers brings expertise and experience of the latest threats with the service.
Specific Solutions for Government Agencies
Government agencies can use managed solutions that ensure they remain protected from the latest threats. With real-time monitoring, advanced threat detection, and a centrally monitored system, agencies benefit from the newest technology and threat prevention expertise.
Specific solutions include:
- Managed print hardware and software solutions, including managed print services
- Secure file-based processing that meets all regulatory requirements
- Electronic document management systems and process automation tools
Kelley Imaging – Your Ransomware Experts in Missoula, Montana
Since 1974, Kelley Imaging has provided technology and digital solutions to customers in the Missoula County region. With a team of network security professionals and a large geographical footprint in the Western US, Kelley Imaging can assist government agencies with reducing their exposure to persistent ransomware threats.
To secure your digital assets as soon as possible, get in touch with one of Kelley Imaging’s team members today.