Democratic State Senators among the Latest to Fall Prey to Ransomware Attack

March 21, 2017 | Privacy, Data & Cyber Law

The Democrats in the Pennsylvania State Senate recently fell victim to a ransomware attack that locked lawmakers and their staffs out of their computer, data, email and website. Hackers were able to infect the party’s network with malware and demanded a ransom payment in bitcoin in order to remove the virus and unlock the files.

While the party reportedly backs up its data with sufficient regularity that only a few days’ worth of communications may ultimately be lost, some state senators noted that certain important information related to grants and constituent issues could be lost. Moreover, it was noted that, while this attack did not hit the party’s political arm, that kind of assault could have significant political consequences if, for example, a voter database were locked, deleted or altered, making it impossible to contact and mobilize voters.

The FBI has issued alerts about the rising threat of ransomware, noting that such attacks were at an all-time high in 2016 and adding that attackers were increasingly seeking to target servers, rather than individuals. In addition, the FBI cautioned that some ransomware victims have not been provided with decryption keys despite paying ransoms, and some have been extorted for even more money after payment.

This recent attack is another illustration that all sorts of organizations and businesses should be taking steps to avoid and mitigate the possible damage of a ransomware attack. In addition to technological solutions, such efforts may include training individuals to avoid opening risky links or documents and ensuring that systems are backed up with enough frequency to avoid significant disruption to operations if a ransomware attack does occur.

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