What Happens When Cities Are Targeted by Ransomware Attacks?

iQuanti: We hear about cyberattacks on individuals and private companies quite often.

But in recent years, ransomware attacks have targeted several cities. For instance, Atlanta was hit by a ransomware attack in 2018 that cost $17 million to fix. Baltimore was attacked as well, and the city spent over $18 million to clean things up.

Cities are then caught in a dilemma. If they pay, they risk the criminals taking the money and running without providing the decryption keys to unlock everything. Additionally, they make ransomware attacks more appealing to cybercriminals elsewhere, and they may even be violating the law.

If they refuse to pay, they may have to spend a lot of resources fixing the issue, and refusal may encourage the attackers to launch more attacks elsewhere.

Below, we'll explore why cities are increasingly the targets of ransomware attacks and how they can better defend themselves against these events.

Why Do Ransomware Attacks Target Cities?

Ransomware attacks often target cities because they don't always have the same financial or cybersecurity resources as the private sector.

Their defenses may be weaker, or they may not have the funds to invest in adequate cybersecurity, leading opportunistic cybercriminals to attack them instead of private firms.

Additionally, cities provide many essential services to taxpayers, from trash pickup to public safety and more. Crippling these services can create substantial problems for the city's residents, potentially making the city more desperate to pay the ransom and restore these services.

How Do Cities Defend Themselves Against Ransomware?

Cities can take many of the same actions as private companies to defend themselves against ransomware. Here are a few places to start:

1. Invest in Cybersecurity

Strengthening city cybersecurity starts with having the right people and solutions. Investing in cybersecurity expertise — whether through hiring city employees or contracting with a private company — can help cities find and fix weaknesses and bring their defenses up to date.

2. Keep All Software Up to Date

Ransomware threats evolve, and software companies always release new security patches and upgrades to counter them. Any program a city uses that isn't fully updated is more open to ransomware attacks, so every software update should be downloaded and installed immediately.

3. Back Up Regularly

Cities can avoid the dilemma of deciding whether to pay by constantly backing up all data. If a city falls victim to a ransomware attack, they don't necessarily have to give in to the demands — they can simply restore things with that backup and get back to normal as long as they have a secure, up-to-date siloed backup.

Protecting Cities and Citizens from Ransomware

Ransomware attacks on cities are on the rise because cities supply their residents with essential services while, at the same time, not having the strongest possible cybersecurity measures.

But cities can employ many of the same methods private organizations use to combat threats and protect their data. In doing so, they can keep essential services up and running and prevent ransomware attackers from costing the taxpayer money.

Source: iQuanti, Inc.