The City of Yonkers has refused to pay the ransom after ransomware attackers demanded a ransom of $10 million to revive the disparate modules that overlay the different departments of the city.
Earlier this month, government employees at the City of Yonkers were restricted from accessing their laptops or computers after the city suffered a computer incursion by ransomware attackers. In the meantime, employees were told to restore as much data as possible manually from backups and this often means keeping pen and paper records that are transferred into databases.
The ransomware outbreak
Ransomware attacks against the local governments are rising with each passing day. Last year, at least 2,354 governments, healthcare facilities, and schools were targeted by ransomware attackers. The local governments are the lucrative targets because they are less equipped in terms of resources and capabilities.
A 2020 survey of state chief information security officers discovered that 70 percent listed ransomware as a top concern because of funding hurdles and lack of confidence in localities’ abilities to guard state information assets. And after a ransomware event occurs, only 45 percent of local enforcement agencies felt that they “had access to the resources” to analyze digital evidence linked to the crime. This then allows attackers to operate with more confidence, as the third way found that only 3 out of every 1,000 cybercrimes reported to the FBI result in an arrest.
In 2019, the City of Baltimore was crippled for more than two weeks before the government’s systems were restored, in a delay that cost the city more than $18 million. Although Baltimore followed the instructions given by cyber security experts and the FBI to not pay the ransom, many people questioned the city’s strategy, given the extent of the damage.
“If we paid the ransom, there is no guarantee [the attackers] can or will unlock our system. There’s no way of tracking the payment or even being able to confirm who we are paying the money to. Because of the way they requested payment, there’s no way of knowing if they are leaving other malware on our system to hold us for ransom again in the future,” Mayor Bernard C. Jack Young said while responding to the critics.
“Ultimately, we would still have to take all the steps we have taken to ensure a safe and secure environment. I’m confident we have taken the best course of action,” he added.
No more ransom payments
When three more local governments were attacked within a space of few months, it sparked a meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors. The meeting of US mayors resulted in a unanimous decision to stop paying ransom demands.
“Paying ransomware attackers encourages continued attacks on other government systems, as perpetrators financially benefit. The United States Conference of Mayors has a vested interest in de-incentivizing these attacks to prevent further harm,” the mayors wrote.
In the case of the City of Yonkers, the city confirmed that the virus was quarantined on the network, no ransom was paid and the Department of Homeland Security was notified.