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Ransomware Attacks Target Supply Chains To Increase Leverage To Ensure Payment

A ransomware attack appears to have targeted Americold, a U.S. cold storage firm and downed operations. The organization provides temperature-controlled warehouses and transportation for operations that require refrigeration, such as supplying the COVID-19 vaccine.

The firm stated in its regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that its IT network experienced an unspecified "cybersecurity incident" in November. It said that it "took immediate steps to help contain the incident and implemented business continuity plans," as well as working with law enforcement, cybersecurity experts, and legal counsel.

The day of the "cybersecurity incident," a truck driver tweeted, "At a Americold and their systems are down. They are unable to assign me to a door."

Americold is the type of target cybercriminals like to hit with "human-operated" ransomware. Given the nature of its business, a ransomware attack that causes operational outages could have serious consequences for customers. This, in turn, could motivate the organization, which made more than $1.4 billion in 2020, to pay a ransom.

The CEO of CyberSmart said that the incident showed the importance of supply chain cybersecurity, calling on businesses to not only pay attention to their own cybersecurity practices but also those of their distributors and suppliers. Phil Muncaster "Americold Operations Downed by Cyber-Attack" infosecurity-magazine.com (Nov. 18, 2020).

Commentary

Even when your organization can afford it and operations must resume, paying a ransom to cybercriminals is often the worse option.

First, there is no guarantee that the criminals will restore your network or keep stolen data private even if you do pay their demanded ransom. In many cases, payment simply emboldens criminals to keep asking for more at a later time.

The best strategy is prevention.

Protect your system with strong cybersecurity software and monitoring; keep all devices updated with the latest patch; and train all members of the organization on best practices and ways to prevent a phishing attack. Back up data offline and have a business continuity plan specifying how you will continue operations if cybercriminals do lock your system.

Most importantly, make sure that employees not select links or download documents unless they are absolutely sure they are trustworthy.

Finally, inquire from other organizations in your supply chain about their cybersecurity practices and if they have protections in place to prevent operational outages if they are attacked with ransomware.

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