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How to Avoid Becoming a Cybercrime Cautionary Tale

Jun 1, 2022

Cybercrime is on the rise. Varonis recently shared some startling information security statistics:

  • 36 billion records were exposed by data breaches in the first half of 2020 alone
  • $3.86 million is the average cost of a data breach
  • It took, on average, 207 days to identify a breach in 2020
  • The average ransomware payment last year was $111,605 (representing a 33% increase from 2019)
  • 58% of breaches last year involved personal data

As a company providing cybersecurity services in Colorado, we know that having a robust cybersecurity plan is critical to proper IT management. You know this. However, sometimes hearing first-hand about a large-scale cyber breach can help to reinforce this knowledge and underscore just how critical it is for organizations to bolster their cyber posture. We’re here to share one such story.

Colorado Municipalities and Cyber Crime

Like most organizations, Colorado municipalities are a target for cybercriminals. In fact, municipalities are being targeted at an alarming rate, likely due to the sensitive nature of the data they collect. Hackers are looking for data they can sell on the Dark Web, and ransomware demands are at an all-time high.

The victim in this story is a municipality in Colorado, a client for whom we are their managed IT services provider, but (at the time of the incident) had not yet contracted with Amnet for a cybersecurity program. 

The Cybercriminal Strikes

On the day that payroll was due, the accounting team encountered some red flags that set off alarm bells. This prompted the municipality to reach out to Amnet for urgent technical support. In addition to this security breach falling at a time when payroll was due, the timing was also incredibly unfortunate in that it was in close proximity to election day, so it was all hands on deck to get the situation resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The Cybersecurity Experts Get Involved

At the time of the breach, the municipality had been a managed service provider client of Amnet for 3 years, and during that time there had been no prior cybersecurity incidents. Amnet immediately jumped into action, was able to confirm that there was ransomware on the server, and was there all evening and into the morning hours to get control of this large-scale breach attempt.

The cybercriminals were ousted, larger and longer-term prospective network damage was mitigated, and business continuity and public trust remained intact. This public trust piece is always important, especially in a government setting, but even more so with an election right around the corner.

Future-Proofing Against Additional Cyberattacks

With the immediate near catastrophe resolved, the municipality resolved to avoid a repeat scenario and promptly explored cybersecurity and infrastructure protection service options with Amnet. Prior to the cyberattack, they had been inconsistent with their backup activities, so some data re-entry was required. Amnet was able to work with them on streamlining their backup processes, while balancing this with their data retention needs, within a price point that worked for them (as data storage can be costly). 

Cyber security user awareness training has been a major component of their cybersecurity strategy, and the municipality is pleased to see these training efforts paying off.

A Cybersecurity Wake-Up Call

The municipality discussed here is one of the lucky ones. This breach attempt was a wake-up call for them to take a real look at their cybersecurity practices and vulnerabilities and take corrective action in order to avoid a future (and more devastating) attack.

Others have been less fortunate. Take Atlanta, for example. A 2018 ransomware attack against the city resulted in:

  • Devices at City Hall were shuttered for 5 days
  • All archived in-vehicle video footage was wiped out
  • Their police force was required to revert back to writing incident reports manually
  • Their international airport WiFi had to be disabled for over 2 weeks
  • Online payments (bills, tickets, renewals) ceased working for over a month

While municipalities are a definite target for bad actors, they are by no means the only mark. Any individual or organization that uses the internet or email is at risk. Small- and medium-sized businesses are a huge target. This is why a cybersecurity plan is a must-have, not a nice-to-have, for any organization looking to avoid becoming yet another cyber attack statistic.

Your Information Security Partner 

The municipality referenced above had originally approached Amnet to partner in an MSP capacity, as they were dissatisfied with their existing vendor. In working with Amnet as their IT consultant of choice, they have found an extension of their IT department and are particularly impressed with their response time, on issues both large (wide-scale cyber breach attempt) and small (minor printer issue).

Amnet can become an extension of your IT department as well. Count on us for your full suite of secure IT needs, including:

Contact us today, and let us help your organization avoid becoming just another cybersecurity cautionary tale.