U.S. targets top lists of ransomware hackers

Cyberattack, financial services

Cybercriminals are focusing their ransomware attacks on the U.S. and a handful of other countries, according to a new report from Kaspersky.

Such attacks on U.S. computers and networks are not only growing, but cybercriminals are using their most potent form of the malware to target U.S. users.  Those "crypto" variety attacks encrypt the targeted user's files.

Kaspersky's research, which used randomized data from its customers around the world, said crypto attacks surged more than five-fold.

Even though the group's study focused on private and corporate users, company experts told FCW that doesn't mean federal, state or local governments aren't potential targets.  The Department of Homeland Security confirmed as much earlier this year, when it reported more than 300 incidents of ransomware on federal networks.

"Any system connected to the Internet either via network connectivity or removable media can potentially be impacted by ransomware," Kaspersky Lab Senior Security Researcher Brian Bartholomew said in an email to FCW. "This includes critical infrastructure and federal government systems, among others."

"Depending on their role, the impact to these systems and operations could be severe," he said, if they hit systems that process government visas, government benefits, background checks, or inter-agency communications with law enforcement.  "There is no silver bullet to preventing this type of incident, but instead, organizations should have a robust user awareness plan, regular system backup and routine software upgrades in place."

Initially, according to Kaspersky Labs, ransomware targeted mostly home users, but after criminals upgraded to encryption, they started going after companies as well. The report said the share of corporate users attacked with ransomware more than doubled over the period of the research.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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