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The Cleveland Ransomware Attack

By Go2IT

The Cleveland Ransomware Attack

In the tech world, we often hear about cyberattacks, but it hits differently when it happens right in our backyard. Recently, Cleveland faced a significant ransomware attack that not only disrupted operations at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport but also forced Cleveland City Hall to shut down. At Go2IT, we want to break down what happened, why it matters, and how you can protect your business from falling victim to similar threats.

What is Ransomware, Anyway?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that locks your data by encrypting it. The hackers then demand a ransom, typically in cryptocurrency, to unlock it. It’s like a digital hostage situation. Sometimes, hackers also steal data, threatening to sell it if the ransom isn’t paid. This makes ransomware a double-edged sword: pay up or risk losing sensitive information.

Ransom demands aren’t pocket change. In 2023, the average ransom demand for attacks on state and local governments was a whopping $3.3 million, with actual payments averaging $2.2 million. Negotiations can be tricky, often resulting in higher costs. Paying the ransom is risky business; you’re dealing with criminals, and there’s no guarantee they’ll keep their word.

What Went Down with Cleveland’s Shutdown?

Imagine arriving at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, only to find blank flight information screens and employees without email access. This wasn’t a mere glitch – it was ransomware. For nearly a week, key systems were dark. Initially, city officials downplayed the issues, but they later confirmed that ransomware was to blame. The attack not only disrupted city operations but also forced Cleveland City Hall to shut down, underscoring the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures.

On Friday, June 18, the City of Cleveland confirmed that the incident disrupting their IT systems and closing City Hall for the week was a ransomware attack. The city’s IT Department, aided by the FBI and the Ohio National Guard’s Cyber Reserve Unit, identified and contained the threat, but the investigation is ongoing. Despite the closure of City Hall, essential services like waste collection, recreation centers, airport operations, Cleveland Public Power, Water, and Water Pollution Control remained fully operational.

The exact entry point for the ransomware in Cleveland remains unclear. However, common culprits include phishing emails, weak passwords, and software vulnerabilities. Phishing emails trick users into clicking malicious links or downloading harmful attachments. Once inside, ransomware spreads, often targeting backups to maximize damage.

Preventative measures are your best defense

Ransomware might sound daunting, but you can take effective steps to protect your business. Here are some essential tips:

Strong Password Practices

Use unique, complex passwords for all accounts and change them regularly. Avoid common passwords like “12345” or “password.”

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Add an extra layer of security with 2FA. It makes it harder for attackers to access your accounts, even if they have your password.

Regular Software Updates

Keep all software and systems up to date with the latest patches. Many ransomware attacks exploit known vulnerabilities that have already been patched by software vendors.

Phishing Awareness

Educate employees about the dangers of phishing emails and how to recognize suspicious communications. Encourage them to verify the authenticity of unexpected messages before clicking on links or downloading attachments.

Data Backups

Regularly back up critical data and store backups offline or in a secure cloud environment. Ensure backups are not accessible from the main network to prevent them from being encrypted in an attack.

Incident Response Plan

Develop and regularly update an incident response plan. Conduct drills to ensure your team knows how to respond swiftly and effectively in the event of a ransomware attack.

The ransomware attack on Cleveland is a stark reminder that cyber threats are real and can happen to anyone. At Go2IT, we are dedicated to helping businesses protect their operations through comprehensive cybersecurity solutions. By implementing strong security practices and staying informed about emerging threats, you can protect your organization from the devastating impact of ransomware.

Want to learn more about how Go2IT can help with your cybersecurity? Reach out to us today. Let’s work together to create a safer digital environment for your business.

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