Some of us may not remember 1977. It was the year of John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever, Led Zeppelin! And Jimmy Carter! Just to name a few.

Well one county in New Jersey called Somerset County went back in time to 1977 with title searches only available for paper records that were entered before 1977. It was hit that hard by a “ransomware attack” a network assault that left them in dire straits . FYI Dire Straits was a band formed in 1977.

To clarify, information was unavailable for the people of Somerset County, information like land records and probate records, and title searches because the database information was unavailable.

As a result of ransomware attacks most companies to need to go old school to keep things ticking by using pen and paper. Likewise this occurs if there’s a compromise in healthcare. It maybe slow but at least they can still function. But if historical data is locked down it is so more problematic.

Of probates and land records

In relation to the attack on Somerset County which happened back in June their statement reads as follows:

But why is everything post 1977 now unavailable? Well, there are a couple of different theories. Firstly, maybe all the records after 1977 have gone digital only, without any backups. Secondly, the backup has been encrypted as well.

Switching to Plan B

Temporary email addresses have been brought into play in an effort to keep some services moving:

There is a couple of concerns about this sort of approach like:

    • We don’t want to create confusion for customers on how a legitimate email address looks as this can mean their easily fooled by a phisher. A phisher could certainly create a fake Gmail address to mimic the temporary accounts.

But it is better than doing nothing.

Good news and bad news…

Somerset County has confirmed at:

    • Voting machines are “never connected to the county system.” In other words, the upcoming Primary Election will be unaffected

    • Courts and Jails are operating as normal and 911/emergency services are still in service

    • Systems may be offline for “at least” the rest of this week, according to the Register. While, this isn’t good news, the Gmail account solution is better than nothing

Tips to avoid ransomware

    • Encrypt and back up your data. Firstly, back up your files regularly and keep your data encrypted. Secondly, store your data in a logical way and store your backups externally away from the main network.

    • Update your security software. Ensure your security software is as up to date as possible. As it is usually your first line of defence. Automate your scans and updates.

    • Avoid strange attachments. Especially where Macros are concerned, malicious Word/Excel documents are a common threat.

    • Keep devices updated. Outdated software and applications are frequently a launchpad for exploits leading to ransomware attacks. So secure devices with the latest patches. Updating your Operating System is great, but that’s not where your updating journey ends.

    • Strengthen remote access. With more people WFH working from home these days, unsecured remote services are hugely popular with ransomware authors. For remote desktops provide a limit on password guess attempts. It is also worth including services with multifactor authentication.

    • Use browser controls for bad ads. Malvertising is another way attackers try to infiltrate ransomware. Firstly, although it may make some sites unusable try restricting certain features such as JavaScript. It can help. Secondly, try using dedicated extensions which control tracking, scripts, and untrustworthy ad networks. This will also help.

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