Decoding the Impact of Ransomware Attacks on Cities

Cyberattacks have become a worryingly common threat for a number of U.S. cities. Over the past few years, the state and local governments have been facing a deluge of attacks, primarily from ransomware operators. These attacks have infiltrated departments within the community, including education, law enforcement, and healthcare.

What is the average financial loss?

  • According to a report from Knowbe4, municipalities are ideal targets for ransomware attackers, as they provide many essential services to citizens.
  • In 2018, a Georgia city had spent nearly $18 million after it refused to pay the ransomware attacker a ransom of $55,000 (in Bitcoins).
  • A similar scenario was observed after attacks on Colorado, Maryland, and Louisiana, with each city shelling out money between $7 and $10 million for recovery processes.

In addition to financial loss, these attacks impact the sensitive information of users.

Additional problems

  • A ransomware attack on a city can cause a denial of service, downtime, data loss, and possible property theft.
  • As assessed by Coveware, the average downtime that results from a ransomware attack is 9.6 days. During this period of lockdown, the city’s necessary services (such as tax, marriage license, electricity, and hospitals) and vital information can no longer be accessed or operated.

Another major impact

  • Data breaches involving Click2Gov, a widely used payment software across different municipalities, has also become a matter of concern.
  • In 2017 and 2018, hackers had netted around $2 million just by exploiting the flaws in Click2Gov.
  • In 2019, the threats continued to rise, impacting numerous people and their bank accounts.
  • In June 2020, websites - that used Click2Gov municipality payment software - of eight U.S. cities were compromised with payment card-stealing Magecart skimmers.

Conclusion

A cyberattack on a city can have dire consequences. In addition to getting access to welfare schemes provided by government departments, penetrating a city may give attackers access to sensitive data of citizens. In short, an attack on a city’s network can provide a great deal of access and information rather than penetrating a commercial organization.