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Ransomware Forces 17 St Louis Libraries To Wipe Their Computers Systems

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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2017 looks to be another year full of ransomware attacks

Ransomware has hit 17 libraries across the US city of St Louis, sizing control of systems after they were infected with malware a few days ago.

While the libraries are regaining control of their systems the attack predictably prevented anyone from borrowing books at the time, though fortunately for the libraries they managed to restore their services without paying any ransom money to cyber criminals.

Continued rise of ransomware

Ransom, gun, laptop, crime © Tatiana Popova, Shutterstock 2014The hackers had managed to infect 700 computers across the targeted libraries and demanded $35,000 (£28,000) worth of Bitcoin payments in exchange for returning control of the computer systems.

According to CNN, the authorities presiding over the St Louis libraries refused to comply and opted to wipe their systems instead, which will mean several days or even weeks to restore the database systems.

The result of the attack may not have cost the libraries a ransom payment, but the affect of wiping the computers will cause disruption to the residents of St Louis who use the libraries.

“For many of our patrons, we’re their only access to the internet,” Jen Hatton, a spokeswoman for the libraries told CNN. “This is their only access to a computer. Some of them have a smartphone, but they don’t have a data plan. They come in and use the WiFi.”

The ransomware attack is yet another example of the how the malware is being used as a popular tool by cyber criminals to target organisations that may not have the resources of larger enterprises to combat such cyber attack and are thereby more likely to pay the ransom.

Organisations such as universities have been hit hard by ransomware between 2015 and 2016, and the NHS with its plate already full of budget restraints also suffered at least 28 attacks on its Trusts across 2016 and part of 2015.

The prevalence of ransomware ware is such that security firm Malwarebytes found that over half of UK businesses have been victims of ransomware attacks.

“Over the last four years, ransomware has evolved into one of the biggest cyber security threats in the wild, with instances of ransomware in exploit kits increasing 259 percent in the last five months alone. The impact on businesses around the world has been significant,” said Nathan Scott, technical project manager at Malwarebytes.

While vigilance and being clued up on the threat of ransomware can go some way to stopping it from being successful, the growing sophistication of the attacks are problematic, which is why research is being directed at curtailing the ability for ransomware to activate even if it infects a targeted computer.

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