Just last week ransomware shut down the entire Licking County government offices, including the police force
The ransomware shut down began with a virus, accompanied by a financial demand, and it hit several local governments in Ohio. A computer virus discovered late Tuesday night caused Licking County government to shut down its computers and phone systems indefinitely to prevent the virus from spreading, protect data and preserve evidence. The FBI and Bureau of Criminal Investigation have been notified.
Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb would not disclose the amount of the ransom demand, nor if it would be paid. He said they are taking the advice of cyber-security experts and law enforcement.
“It’s their call to decide if we can get this resolved ourselves,” Bubb said. ”That decision has not been made and is not our call at this point. We’re dealing with a criminal element. It’s a crime against the people of Licking County and its government.” Not that they are likely to identify anyone, let alone prosecute.
The commissioner said anyone who needs to do business with county government should physically go to the appropriate office. Back to the stone age for the Licking County folks.
“The rest of this week we’ll be in a manual mode,” Bubb said. “And, there’s no promise everything will be up and running on Monday morning.”
The attack forced departments such as the Licking County 911 Center, county auditor’s office and clerk of courts to perform their jobs without the use of computers or office telephones.
“We don’t believe we were specifically targeted,” said County Commissioner Tim Bubb. “Clearly, it’s designed to make money for somebody. It was just our unlucky day. It was something created to cause havoc.”
While hacking efforts were once mainly confined to expert programmers, attacks such as that seen in Licking County have become more common in recent years as cheap, readily available hacking software has emerged around the world, said Anish Arora, a computer science professor at Ohio State University.
“It has become extremely cheap,” he said. “You can get this stuff for tens of dollars, like thirty dollars.”
The result of a combination of a tiny initial investment requirement and typically zero chance of prosecution for foreign operators: a surge in ransomware attacks.
“On average, more than 4,000 ransomware attacks have occurred daily since January 1, 2016. This is a 300-percent increase over the approximately 1,000 attacks per day seen in 2015,” stated a Department of Justice report on ransomware, which can strike individuals, businesses or government bodies. The average ransom demand is $679, according to a 2016 study by computer security firm Symantec.