At least 30% of UK councils fell victim to ransomware attacks in 2015

Cyber criminals are attempting to collect lucrative financial rewards by targeting councils in England with ransomware, according to a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Ransomware is a malware variant that aims to encrypt some or all of its target’s data, before demanding payment in return for decrypting it again. It has proven a rewarding endeavour for many cyber criminals across both the public and private sectors.

The results came from an FOI request made by endpoint security software company, Avecto. The company approached 46 councils in England, asking them if they had suffered a ransomware attack during 2015.

30% of councils had suffered at least one ransomware attack during 2015, with one council suffering 13 separate attacks throughout the year. Given that a further nine councils withheld information, and 14 failed to respond altogether, the true figures could be even higher.

Of those councils that had suffered an attack, 65% said they had not paid a ransom, while 35% did not disclose whether they had or not, suggesting they had likely suffered some kind of data loss.

Paul Kenyon, co-founder and co-CEO at Avecto, said: “These are sobering statistics. Ransomware attacks are particularly attractive to cyber criminals because they can be relatively cheap and easy to deploy, and even if a minority of targets pay up then the attack overall can be profitable. It’s estimated that 9,515 users in the US alone are paying ransoms every month.*

“Businesses are a lucrative target and employees are often naïve to the risks. But stopping ransomware is much simpler than many people think. In fact, these attacks can be stopped by technology that exists today and just isn’t often implemented. With a smart and proactive approach that stops these threats from ever executing, organizations can allow their employees to focus on their day jobs without worrying about the threat of ransomware.”

Ransomware report

Report: Ransomware uncovered

Ransomware is the most profitable malware in history but, by taking a proactive approach, you can stop it in its tracks and prevent your business being hit.

This report covers what ransomware is, how it works, the damage it causes, predictions for the future and, crucially, how to prevent it with a simple yet effective security strategy.