Presented by the Privacy and Data Security Litigation Practice Group

Despite Coronvirus Shutdown, Ransomware Attacks Continue Against Municipalities

The municipality of Torrance, California announced last month that its computer system had been the victim of a ransomware attack. Torrance officials have now announced that the intruders not only disabled the system with ransomware, but accessed and downloaded a significant amount of data which has been posted online.

 Torrance, located in Los Angeles County, previously announced on March 1 that the ransomware attack had not compromised any public data. However, the City has now admitted that the hackers used a strain of ransomware called Doppelpaymer and also exfiltrated more than 200 GB of data prior to the ransomware encryption. The intruders have now dumped some of the data on public websites and dark web forums. The information includes individuals’ names, birthdays, social security numbers and some of the City’s financial transactions.

The City has claimed it only became aware on April 20 that the data had been published. A ransom of 100 bitcoin, approximately $680,000, is being demanded or additional information will be released. These types of ransomware attacks are now becoming more common. The intruders exfiltrate data from the victim and then not only demand a ransom for the encryption key, but also for the data to be returned and not publicly disclosed.

While ransomware attacks on the public sector are reportedly down during the COVID-19 pandemic, this decrease is likely only temporary. All entities, particularly municipalities, should ensure that they have proper cyber insurance coverage for cyber extortion events.



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