New Horizons Press Release

Phishing Attacks Targeting Local Government Employees Result in Ransomware Outbreak

Over the course of just a few weeks, at least four local and state government organizations have become the victims of ransomware attacks - three of them in Florida. Is your business CyberSAFE?

PLANTATION, FL July 23, 2019 – Over the course of just a few weeks, at least four local and state government organizations have become the victims of ransomware attacks. This type of cyber-attack, in which hackers will lock victims’ files until a ransom is paid, has become more and more popular in recent years, as hackers can make a substantial profit.

The first city to be targeted in this recent spree was Riviera Beach, Florida. After more than three weeks of being locked out of their own systems, the city agreed to pay $600,000 to hackers in the hope of retrieving access. Lake City, Florida was the next to notice that their systems were infected with ransomware. A payment of $460,000 was negotiated to unlock the systems. Although the city’s insurance covered most of this ransom, $10,000 came from the taxpayers. Soon after, the city of Key Biscayne, Florida had its systems infected by ransomware. The city decided to spend $30,000 on hiring a data recovery firm, although they hadn’t yet ruled out paying the hackers.

A week later, the pandemonium had spread to the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts. The entire system had been knocked offline by a ransomware attack, and many Georgia citizens have had to file court documents in person following the lockdown. This follows last year’s attack on the City of Atlanta’s computer network, in which the city refused to pay the hackers but has had to shell out around $17 million for the damages.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security states that ransomware is the fastest-growing malware threat, and it targets both individuals and organizations. For all three Florida city governments, the malware made its way onto local government computers when an employee clicked on an email link that allowed it to be uploaded. These emails, referred to as phishing or spear phishing emails, often appear as though they’ve been sent from a legitimate organization or someone known to the victim to entice the user to click on the malicious link or attachment. The virus then spreads throughout the network, effectively shutting down operations.

Because employees have access to information that is important to the business, as well as sensitive data, they are often the most vulnerable to these types of attacks. According to a new report from Proofpoint, an analysis of workers’ cyber knowledge gaps found that end users last year struggled most with identifying phishing threats and protecting data throughout its lifecycle. The next highest percentage of wrong answers were compliance-related cybersecurity directives and protecting mobile devices and information. On average, end users answered about 22 percent of the overall questions incorrectly.

As more and more business is conducted online, the best way for companies to protect their people and their information from these threats is through education and training. Closing those cybersecurity knowledge gaps will give your employees more confidence and ownership over their ability to protect your most valuable data.

Is your business CyberSAFE? New Horizons South Florida has the resources you need to keep your team up-to-date! Visit our website to see the different trainings we offer, and take our free CyberSAFE Readiness Test to see where you should get started.

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About New Horizons Computer Learning Centers of South Florida

Established in 1997, New Horizons Learning Centers of South Florida (NHCLC) is the country’s leading IT training provider, with specialized attention paid to veterans. NHCLC offers cutting-edge courses and teaching strategies that provide a path to success for those in the military, government, and corporations, as well as the general public, that seek to upgrade their skills for their 21st century career.

In addition to being a South Florida Business journal Best Places to work recipient, New Horizons is part of a family of more than 250 computer-training centers in 35 countries. For more information on the campuses in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, visit the website at www.nhflorida.com