Ransomware attacks rising in Canada

A recent report by CBC News, claims that ransomware is constantly on the rise in Canada. Reports of ransomware this year include a string of the Ontario municipalities — including Woodstock, Stratford, and The Nation


Just two weeks ago, two hospitals in Listowel and Wingham, ON were also victims of ransomware attacks. The Toronto East General Hospital (now Michael Garron Hospital) was also attacked the same day. Last week, a Toronto dental office was hit by ransomware, infecting 19 out of 22 computers.


You don’t have to be a security expert to know that there has been “an uptick” in ransomware attacks in Canada. But sometimes stats help get the message across. Carbon Black’s recent survey of Canadian organizations found the vast majority (88 percent) experienced a data breach over the last 12 months.


The research by the U.S.-based cybersecurity firm also found 82 percent of Canadian companies surveyed reported an “increase in overall attack volume.” Couple those stats with the McAfee Labs Threats Report for August 2019, which noted a 118% rise in ransomware attacks in the first quarter of this year alone. Ransomware has been a problem for a long while globally, and now it is catching up with Canadian organizations.


So, why is ransomware attacks on the rise, and why should we care? The obvious answer is that ransomware is very lucrative to the hacker. Said the Toronto dentist who was recently victimized: “If someone said to me, ‘Pay $20,000 and you get your files back,’ I’d give them the money because I need my files.” The Toronto dentist also said he was fortunate to have a good backup. When CBC spoke to the hacker of the Toronto dentist, they asked for 15 bitcoins or $165,000. As for why we should care, it’s no secret that hackers are attacking hospitals and cities around the world because of their importance in critical situations.


Tom Kellermann, Carbon Black’s head cybersecurity strategist, says, “[Criminals] recognize that ransomware is far more impactful in these types of organizations due to their mission.” In the recent case of the hospitals in Listowel and Wingham, think of the impact on patient care. While the emergency department has remained open, “non-urgent hospital visitors can expect to wait longer, have their care postponed, or be redirected to other healthcare providers.”


All three hospitals said they paid no money to retrieve their files and no specific amount was demanded. Systems at all three facilities are in the process of being restored, the hospitals said. As for data being retrieved by hackers, the Toronto hospital seems to have dodged a bullet. Sarah Downey, CEO of Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, says, “the malware “came into our system, but no data left our hospital, it was picked up by a firewall before [the data] could leave.” The problem of ransomware is a big one. Make sure your organization is protected. Engage with your security partner(s) before it is too late.

If you don’t have a security partner, talk to Pulse Tech today, and learn how we can help.