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Ryuk ransomware hits Spanish Government (Includes interview)

US federal agencies warned hackers were targeting the business sector using malware that can lead to ransomware attacks - © AFP
US federal agencies warned hackers were targeting the business sector using malware that can lead to ransomware attacks - © AFP

The Ryuk ransomware gang reportedly crippled Spain’s public payments agency. The main attack, upon the State Public Employment Service (SEPE), is especially significant as the nation has four million people who are unemployed as a result of their economy taking a hit due to Covid-19. It’s also the latest cyber attack against the country and its citizens over the course of the pandemic.

According to Casey Ellis, who is the co-founder of the company Bugcrowd, this latest security incident has demonstrated how common vulnerabilities are within organizations of any size across industries. Ellis outlines the primary risks to Digital Journal.

With the attacks, there are significant ramifications for all sectors, states Ellis: “This incident highlights that every organization — regardless of its size and popularity — are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Oftentimes, the impacts of a cyberattack reach beyond the targeted organization, as seen in this instance with the Spanish government agency for labor (SEPE) which will unfortunately act as an all-access pass to other Spanish government agencies, including the State Public Employment Service.”

This means, in terms of the sequence of events: “Ryuk was able to exploit vulnerabilities in SEPE’s systems and install ransomware to reach more than 700 agency offices across Spain. Fortunately, confidential data was kept safe in this instance. However, many times, this is not the case and such cyber attacks can lead to devastating losses of data and expose personally identifiable information (PII).”

The threat is showing no signs of declining, either, as Ellis notes: “With Ryuk hitting roughly 20 companies per week in the third quarter of 2020 and also co-ordinating a wave of attacks upon the U.S. healthcare systems, it is critical for government agencies to acknowledge the scale and distributed nature of the threats they face in the cyber-domain. Governments need to seek out the assistance of security researchers who are offering to help defend against adversaries as state-sponsored attacks continue to rise.”

In fact, many governments and private organizations around the globe have already recognized the threats they face and are leaning into the benefits of vulnerability disclosure programs to leverage the talents of cybersecurity researchers, who work to counter and outsmart adversaries and more importantly to help to create confidence in their constituents’ security ecosystem.”

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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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