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Cyberattack strikes at the heart of U.S. law enforcement

A cyberattack has struck at the heart of US government, breaking into the legal system. The Department of Justice has fallen foul of a ransomware incident.

Investigators and researchers are still learning of the scope of the cyberattack which has hit US government agencies and other victims around the world - AFP
Investigators and researchers are still learning of the scope of the cyberattack which has hit US government agencies and other victims around the world - AFP

In the wake of the U.S. Justice Department creating a new task force dedicated to rooting out and responding to the growing threat of ransomware, police departments based in the U.S. have become the latest target for cyberattacks.

As well as a motivation clustered around revenge against the US legal system, law enforcement facilities also contain large amounts of personal data held digitally, which will be of value to hackers and represent a critical loss to the police. To show that the threats have become a reality, it has been announced by the New York Times that Washington D.C.’s police department has confirmed that it has been a victim of a ransomware attack after data, such as arrest details and information on persons of interest, was leaked online.

We are aware of unauthorized access on our server. While we determine the full impact and continue to review activity, we have engaged the FBI to fully investigate this matter – Metropolitan Police Department (quoted by Bleeping Computer).

According to The Verge, the cyberattack is thought to be the work of Babuk, a hacker group known for its many ransomware attacks.

Looking at this serious issue for Digital Journal is Jeff Brown, CEO at Open Systems. Brown is an advocate for tighter security, such as integrated managed detection and response (MDR) services supported by zero trust network access (ZTNA).

Brown opens with describing this latest ransomware incident, noting: “The Washington, D.C., police department confirmed it is a victim of ransomware, as bad actors accessed its servers and are leaking confidential data about arrests and persons of interest.”

The attack could be becoming part of a galloping trend, as Brown observes: “This is reportedly the third police department hit by ransomware in six weeks, and ransomware overall has soared 62 percent since 2019”

Going back to the Washington event, Brown states: “Though the exact cause of this breach is unclear, all organizations must consider employing zero trust network access enforcement (ZTNA) to protect against ransomware attacks.”

As to what this means in practice, Brown explains: “ZTNA is a policy-based approach to cybersecurity that provides more thorough authentication, granular policy controls and greater scalability and simplicity, and its key principle is to never trust, always verify.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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