Government computer systems in Hall County, Georgia, including a voter signature database, were hit by a ransomware attack beforehand this fall in the first known ransomware attack on acclamation basement during the 2020 presidential election. Thankfully, county admiral appear that the voting action for its citizens was not disrupted.

The attack follows on the heels of a ransomware attack last month on eResearchTechnology, a aggregation that provides software used in analytic trials, including trials for COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. Less than a week after the attack in Georgia was revealed, the FBI warned that cyber abyss have unleashed a wave of ransomware attacks targeting hospital advice systems.

Attacks like these accentuate the challenges that cybersecurity experts face daily – and which loom over the accessible election. As a cybersecurity able and researcher, I can attest that there is no silver bullet for acquisition cyber threats like ransomware. Rather, arresting adjoin them comes down to the accomplishments of bags of IT staff and millions of computer users in organizations large and small across the country by all-embracing and applying the basic good accretion practices and IT procedures that have been answer for years.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of awful software, or malware, that about encrypts a victim’s computer files, holds the files earnest and then demands a acquittal to send the decryption key that unlocks the files. Individual ransomware payments usually range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, with the apprehension that a almost low dollar amount will actuate the victim to bound pay the antagonist to end the incident.

Ransomware attacks frequently begin through email as a archetypal phishing bulletin purporting to be from addition the abeyant victim trusts, such as a accessory or friend. However, arising types of ransomware accomplishment absolute or afresh apparent aegis vulnerabilities – in other words, they hack in – to gain system access after acute any user alternation at all.

Once a computer system is compromised, there are many things a ransomware attack can do. But the most common aftereffect is encrypting a user’s data to hold it for a ransom payment. In other cases, ransomware encrypts a victim’s data and the ransomware’s architect threatens to absolution claimed or acute advice onto the internet unless the ransom is paid.