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New Mexico prison forced offline due to ransomware attack

Cybercriminals continue to home in on the vulnerabilities that exist in many institutions.

Image: © AFP/File
Image: © AFP/File

The Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County, New Mexico went into lockdown during January 2021. This happened after cybercriminals tapped into government systems. Once in the criminals forced data management servers and security camera networks offline.

The incident took place when a criminal entity infiltrated Bernalillo County systems and deployed a powerful form of malware. The digital data repair and recovery process too a couple of weeks to rectify.

Looking into the service disruption for Digital Journal is Matt Sanders, Director of Security at LogRhythm.

According to Sanders, this attack is another sign of the reach of cybercrime, especially ransomware. Sanders finds: “Unfortunately, ransomware continues to be a dangerous threat to government systems regardless of size.”

This leads the security expert to explain: “Due to the potentially significant impact targeting these systems has on the entities affected, cybercriminals continue to home in on their vulnerabilities.”

With the specific case – the ransomware attack on a New Mexico government system – Sanders says the scope “affected those of the Metropolitan Detention Center, forcing inmates to go into lockdown and staff to be locked out of important data management servers and security camera networks.”

For those who wished to disrupt operations, Sanders notes how: “Situations like these present more consequences than infiltrated data– the safety of inmates was compromised, visitations were canceled and constitutional rights were brought into question.”

In terms of remedial actions, Sanders makes some recommendations. He says: “To prevent situations like this from happening, government establishments must ensure that cybersecurity is top-of-mind.

“Authentication and access controls, detection and response capabilities and real-time monitoring and visibility are absolutely crucial to ensuring that government systems remain up and running even against the worst of cyber threats.”

The step towards this is with prioritizing security controls. Sanders says this “helps organizations prepare for and thwart hazards and make certain that crucial practices remain undisrupted.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, 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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