Earlier this week, JBS a global meatpacking company was the latest large corporation hit by a ransomware attack. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “The attack is the latest in a growing number to hit a range of businesses and institutions, including hospitals, the oil industry and local water suppliers. At JBS, the attack halted operations at meat plants that are among the largest in the U.S., according to worker representatives and notices shared with JBS employees. JBS facilities in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Texas were among those affected.” These activities seem to be ramping up in frequency. Yesterday, a ransomware attack disrupted ferry services in Massachusetts. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority also revealed Wednesday that it had been hacked in April, although the attack didn’t disrupt operations, including the city’s subway system. As these attacks seem to target highly impactful infrastructure, it is important to remember to be on high alert for suspicious activities.
The trend in the types of companies being targeted has changed overtime as well. Historically, cyber criminals have gone after large retailers for credit card information, but recently criminals have shifted their focus. “Emboldened by recent successes, hackers have shifted their focus away from data-rich companies such as retailers, financial institutions and insurance companies to providers of key public needs such as hospitals, transportation and food. The trend is part of a global criminal pivot from stealing data to hobbling operations via ransomware, where companies are hit with demands for million-dollar payments to regain control of their operating systems.” These criminal enterprises have been able to net large ransoms paid in untraceable cryptocurrency. As the frequency of attacks have increased, so has the demand for a governmental response.
As we wait for policies to be made, it is important to stay hypervigilant in our own lives. Although it is almost impossible to protect ourselves completely, there are some simple steps to take to be a bit safer on the web. Pay attention to fake email addresses that look similar to known addresses. Do not open email attachments from unknown senders. Keep a system backup of your data in the event of an attack. The importance of maintaining safe data practices is now more important than ever, as these attacks grow in frequency and scale it will be interesting to see how the world responds.