Thirty per cent of UK councils fell victim to ransomware attacks in 2015, according to a recent Freedom of Information request.
The request, made by security firm Avecto, found that companies were targeted by attacks in which some or all of the victim's data is encrypted before the perpetrator demands payment in return for decrypting it.
Nearly a third of the 46 councils in England suffered at least one ransomware attack during 2015, while one suffered 13 separate assaults. A further nine councils withheld information, and 14 failed to respond altogether, suggesting that perhaps ransomware attacks had affected more than 30 per cent of councils.
Some 65 per cent of the councils that suffered an attack did not pay a ransom, while 35 per cent did not disclose whether they had or not, suggesting that they may have paid off the criminals.
The findings don't come as a complete surprise. McAfee Labs said in November that councils will be increasingly targeted by ransomware threats.
Lincolnshire County Council shut down IT across the organisation after a suspected cyber attack in January in which sensitive personal information on some of its systems was breached.
Lincolnshire council CIO Judith Hetherington Smith revealed in an interview with V3's sister site Computing that the council was the subject of a £1m ransomware demand. The local authority had no choice but to shut down PCs and servers across its entire network.
The malware had encrypted a number of files before deleting itself and presenting a ransom demand of £1m in bitcoin in return for the decryption keys. Hetherington Smith suggested that the ransomware was triggered by one employee.
Her advice for other organisations is to keep reminding staff of cyber threats, to take the precaution of taking systems down if the company suspects something, and to check that business continuity plans actually work.
Interested in cyber security? Come to the Security & Risk Management Summit 2016 in London on 24 November. It's free for end users.
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