Ransomware attacks against government, education, and healthcare down in Q1

By Erin Ayers on April 20, 2020

Though welcome, break may be temporary for the sectors

The number of successful ransomware attacks against government agencies, educational institutions and healthcare providers dropped “considerably” during the first quarter of 2020, but the relief may only be temporary, according to a recent report from Emsisoft.

In 2019, hackers attacked 966 government agencies, healthcare providers, and schools with ransomware and in early 2020, the trend seemed to be continuing. However, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in the first quarter, cybercriminals slowed down, with just 89 successful attacks against these sectors, Emsisoft reported. The year-over-year difference is most notable in healthcare, with successful ransomware attacks on 25 healthcare providers in the first quarter, down from an average of 191 per quarter for 2019.

It is a “level not seen in several years,” according to Brett Callow, threat analyst at Emsisoft. The closing of non-essential operations due to the pandemic has “reduced organizations’ attack surface” in some ways and although work-from-home structures may create new vulnerabilities, ransomware groups may also be challenged by the change, he said in the report. Ransomware groups “are limited by their available personnel and infrastructure and cannot rapidly scale up their operations.”

Additionally, one of the most prominent ransomware groups – Maze – indicated that it would avoid healthcare entities during the pandemic.

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eayers@advisen.com'

Erin is an editor at Advisen. She has 15 years of journalism experience. Prior to Advisen, Erin covered property-casualty insurance for 13 years as editor-in-chief of The Standard, New England’s Insurance Weekly. Erin is based in Boston, Mass. Contact Erin at eayers@advisen.com.