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Midland officials pay ransom to regain access to their computer systems

On September 1, 2018, a crisis knocked on the doors of Midland, a small town province in Ontario, Canada. The town council's computer systems were hacked and encrypted by ransomware. They decided to give in to the demands of the hackers and pay the bitcoin ransom in exchange for decryption keys. Even though this doesn't seem like an ideal move, the town, with a population of 16,000 residents, was keen on getting things back on track. Since the town had insured itself against cyber attacks, they were in a position to pay the ransom without much difficulty. Although they were in a position to do so, paying to decrypt ransomware is not advised because there's no guarantee that the hackers actually provide the decryption keys.

Aftermath of the attack

The attack immobilized various city services, which prevented permits from being issued for businesses, transit passes for buses from being sold or reloaded, and marriage applications from being processed. However, vital services such as the fire, water, and waste management departments were not affected. Under the guidance of a cybersecurity team, the town has initiated the process of paying an undisclosed ransom amount in bitcoins in order to get the decryption keys.

As soon as the attack was identified, Midland town authorities reported the incident to law enforcement as well as the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. So far, the security experts have obtained no proof to confirm whether any sensitive information was accessed from the systems. Under the guidance of the cybersecurity team counceling them, the town is implementing stringent security measures to prevent such incidents in the future.

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What can you learn from this incident?

The town was in the process of upgrading its security systems when the incident occurred. In spite of having an IT security system in place, the attack couldn't be averted. Here are some best practices that can be followed for a secure upgrade:

    • Make a plan:Chalk out who needs to do what and when they need to do it. You can simplify upgrades by using a solid strategy and having proper documentation in place. You should also be sure to take careful steps to ensure security isn't compromised during the upgrade.
    • Start from a clean slate:Start by reviewing and documenting your current environment to ensure that you have a baseline for this upgrade and any future upgrades. This ensures that everyone involved in the process has a 360 degree view of their organization's IT environment, which enables them to identify potential risks during the upgrade process and identify opportunities to improve security in the future.
    • You can't afford to fall behind:Technology evolves so quickly that not having the latest version of security systems can be a serious disadvantage. Avoid falling behind by identifying the oldest systems and processes and focus on upgrading those first.

How can ManageEngine help?

Rather than leaving yourself with no option other than yielding to the demands of hackers, your best option is to arm yourself against such threats before disaster strikes. We recommend using ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus, which automatically identifies and mitigates ransomware threats.

Without any manual intervention from you, the tool immediately:

    • Provides email alerts to involved stakeholders at the first sign of a data breach.
    • Shuts down infected devices.
    • Quarantines infected systems to prevent malware from spreading.
    • Initiates actions to combat any detected threats.

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