On July 29, 2020, the Athens ISD board of trustees voted to pay the ransom amount of $50K in crypto after a criminal ransomware attack against its servers.
According to a statement from Athens ISD, the attack that has forced school opening to be postponed for a week had encrypted all of the data on school district servers, including numerous data backups and hundreds of school district computers.
The blackmail operation thus restricted access to vital school data, including teacher communications, student schedules, grades, and assignments.
Further investigation revealed that no information has been siphoned from the servers, but only encrypted to prevent access until a ransom was paid.
Online Scammers Exploit Cryptocurrencies to Perpetuate Crime
The Texas school district attack happened just two days before Argentina’s major telephone company, Telecom, was hit by a ransomware attack on July 31, 2020. The cyber-criminals are now demanding approximately $7.5M in ransom paid in privacy coin Monero.
Today’s cyber-attack on Telecom Argentina SA took place just days after the now-infamous Twitter hack that targeted prominent personalities to swindle crypto users of their BTC.
These latest cyber-attacks show a disturbing trend where criminals are using crypto payments to perpetrate crime.
To highlight the severity of cyber-crime, a leading provider of cyber-security solutions globally, released a Cyber Attack Trends: 2020 Mid-Year Report. The report revealed that malicious actors are increasingly targeting institutions across all sectors, including government agencies, educational institutes and healthcare providers.
Covid-19 Inspires Cyber Criminals
As Echo, EU’s cybersecurity network, recently pointed out, Covid-19 has left many individuals so distracted and disoriented that their defences are down, even as they are increasingly dependent on all things digital.
“This pandemic offers cyber attackers unique opportunities to leverage existing attack tactics, techniques and procedures to exploit new opportunities,” Echo notes.
Case in point, a University in California recently suffered a ransomware attack where hackers froze its systems that were supporting the search for a cure for Covid-19 and demanded a ransom of 116.4 BTC.
It is apparent that institutions in numerous countries, particularly in the US and UK, have become soft targets for ransomware attack campaigns that demand ransom in crypto.
To deter cybercriminals, organizations should segment their networks to make it more difficult for an attack to affect multiple systems. They should also ensure that all systems are fitted with the latest security updates.