The operators of blackmail viruses have been actively looking for new niches to target over the past years. The sad truth in this regard is that entities like educational institutions, healthcare organizations and even law enforcement agencies are low-hanging fruit to these attackers. One of the latest onslaughts demonstrates this unsettling susceptibility. In mid-April 2018, an unidentified ransomware strain hit the computer network of the Leominster Public School District in Massachusetts. While the details of the specific attack vector remain undisclosed at the time of writing, the most likely entry point was a phishing email opened by one of unsuspecting staffers. Ultimately, the district officials have admitted to paying $10,000 worth of Bitcoin to regain access to the proprietary records.

Ransomware continues to be a critical problem to users and organizations

According to the local police that’s investigating the incident, the school didn’t maintain an offsite data backup. That’s very poor security hygiene that makes users and companies incur serious losses in various information security incursions and data breaches. As a result, part of the target’s network was locked down as the malicious code applied a strong cipher to encrypt the most common types of files spotted on the host servers.

According to some unconfirmed reports, the troublemaking program might be the infamous WannaCry ransomware, which broke out worldwide in May 2017 and crippled numerous computer networks, including government-related ones and those belonging to industry giants. Some organizations had to rebuild entire segments of their infrastructure from scratch to recover from this massive attack. The UK’s National Health Service exemplifies the harsh impact as about 70,000 of its devices were affected.

The involvement of WannaCry in the Leominster case is a mere speculation, though. If it holds true, the attack probably tool place via unpatched software exploited in a furtive way. One way or another, although the FBI and security professionals advise against submitting ransoms in scenarios like that, the school district elected the lesser of two evils. The officials followed the crooks’ demands and coughed up the negotiated amount of cryptocurrency.

In summary, crypto ransomware continues to be a serious concern, and organizations are much better off keeping file backups to avoid the damage.