Headline Hacks of 2016

Ransomware definition: A form of cyber-attack that removes access to the files stored on your PC (or other device). In order to retrieve these files you must pay a ransom hence the name Ransomware.

Hospital Hacks

Hospitals are easy targets for hackers. They have limited cyber security and often outdated systems, and are therefore a real sweet spot for hackers without a heart. In the worst cases, deaths have been caused because of loss of patient data. The hackers encrypt crucial hospital data and demand a ransom payment in order to give back access.

One of the biggest cases reported was the Hollywood Presbyterian hospital, who paid a whopping $17,000 ransom to regain access to their files. The malware used in this case locked systems by encrypting files and demanding ransom to obtain the decryption key. Patient data was lost, nurses were forced to resort to pen and paper to update patient records and some patients were transported to other hospitals after the attack was declared an “internal emergency”.

A statement released from the hospital’s Chief Executive read:

“The quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom and obtain the decryption key. In the best interest of restoring normal operations, we did this.”

Hacks in the Halls!

The big victim in the education sector was The University of Calgary, a major research centre based in Canada. The university admitted to paying $16,000 to recover their emails that had been locked down for a week.
“Because we do world-class research here… we did not want to be in a position that we had exhausted the option to get people’s potential life work back in the future if they came today and said, ‘I’m encrypted, I can’t get my files,'” said the official in a statement cited by the CBC.

A SWIFT Attack

Possibly one of the biggest cyber security breaches is the high profile bank heists that affected Bangladesh, Vietnam and Ecuador. In all three cases these attacks stemmed from ‘The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transfers’ (SWIFT). This is a system that is utilised globally by financial institutions in order to communicate messages and payment instructions. This organisation has over 10,000 customers, including banks, brokerage/investment firms and foreign exchanges.

The hackers behind this calculated attack had an in-depth knowledge of the SWIFT platform and how companies interact and use it. They then used this knowledge to their advantage by editing PDF documents and transferring an astonishing $81 million into 5 separate bank accounts.

While this isn’t technically a Ransomware attack, it was one of the biggest ever cyber security attacks, making it worthy of inclusion in this blog!

The Christmas Hack

I can see it now, full to the brim with turkey, mince pie’d to the max, a glass of sherry in one hand and the remote in the other. Waiting in anticipation for the Queen’s speech when… hold on! A ransom note?!

On December 25th, a software engineer found himself in this exact situation (well maybe not exactly). Darren Cauthon tweeted an image showing his family’s LG smart TV that had been hacked with a ransom note appearing on the screen. We now know that his TV set was infected with the FLocker form of Ransomware. This piece of malware has been re-written many times in order to avoid detection. This story, however has a happy ending as LG gave Darren the instructions for a factory reset, just in time for the Vicar of Dibley.*


Read more about Cyber Attacks and Ransomware Below: 

4 Ways to Spot Ransomware

Ransomware: What you need to know (infographic)

Locky and Beyond: the Biggest Ransomware Threats of 2016

Sophos Intercept X: Welcome to a New Realm of Cops and Robbers