• 1-877-741-2410
August 8, 2019 Jeremy Boren

TechHub: Ransomware, Digitizing State Farm, iPhone Vulnerability

2019 is Shaping Up to be the “Year of Ransomware” in Cybersecurity

One of the most popular breakout sessions at Transform 2019 — GrayMatter’s annual Industrial Intelligence Conference — was about the landscape of cybersecurity threats in 2019.

Ransomware dominated the discussion. No one source can track every attack, and some victims choose not to disclose them. It’s safe to say there have been dozens of reported ransomware attacks on public entities as of mid-2019.

Common Targets

Among the most common targets in the last decade, said GrayMatter’s Cyber Security Practice Lead Scott Christensen: critical manufacturing, energy and water and wastewater systems. Food and agriculture, chemical, commercial facilities and transportation systems follow in the fourth through seventh spots.

Scott Christensen, GrayMatter’s Cyber Practice Lead, discusses the cybersecurity threat landscape in 2019 at Transform 2019 on July 30, 2019, at Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

Among some of the high-profile ransomware attacks documented this year:

June 26, 2019: Lake City, Fla., agrees to pay ransomware.

June 20, 2019: Riviera Beach, Fla., discloses ransomware attack and payment.

May 7, 2019: City of Baltimore hit with ransomware attack.

In April 2019: Cleveland Hopkins International Airport suffered a ransomware attack.

The same month, April 2019: Augusta, Maine, suffered a highly targeted malware attack that froze the city’s entire network and forced the city center to close.

Again in April 2019: Hackers stole roughly $498,000 from the city of Tallahassee.

March 2019: Albany, New York, suffered a ransomware attack.

March 2019: Jackson County, Georgia officials paid cybercriminals $400,000 after a cyberattack shut down the county’s computer systems.

To Pay or Not to Pay

Christensen said one of the challenges the cybersecurity community faces is the fact that ransomware attacks will likely continue to increase because some victims choose to pay. If cybercriminals don’t believe they can make money, the rate of attacks will likely decrease.

It’s important to develop a risk assessment, deploy software patches, employ encryption and access limits, and address vulnerabilities caused by legacy systems, according to Christensen.

Attacks will happen, but they can be mitigated through a risk and resiliency strategy, he said.

“Will we have a good explanation to give our clients, constituents, customers, regulators and shareholders when attacks do happen?”

Scott Christensen, Cyber Practice Lead, GrayMatter

For more from Scott Christensenabout the rising threat of ransomware, check out Episode 4 of the emPOWERUP Podcast.

You can also check out GrayMatter’s OT Cyber Guide.

Transform 2019: 2-Minute Version

If you missed out on attending Transform — GrayMatter’s largest in 25 years — our video recap will give you a flavor of what we covered.

Spoiler: It was a lot!

If you were there, visit us on LinkedIn (give us a follow, please) and let us know in the post comments what you liked, what we should bring back and what we should do more of next year. Thanks!

What We Can Learn from State Farm’s Digital Transformation

Forbes Tech Contributor John Koetsier interviewed State Farm Chief Digital Officer Fawad Ahmad and Chief Technology Officer Duane Farrington about how the 100-year-old firm embraced change and embarked on a digital transformation.

smart cities

State Farm’s new approach included data mining customer service calls and complaints to get a better sense of what customers were saying, using A/B testing and relying on data over opinions; and encouraging departments to collaborate, even if they rarely talk to each other.

A few of the top takeaways:

“Don’t let edge cases stall you” … meaning focus on what most customers use most of the time and don’t over-invest time and resources right away in developing lesser lights that won’t help as many customers;

“Break down silos” and make sure someone tech savvy is in a position of influence;

“It’s not about opinions. It’s about data.”

Interaction-less Attacks on iPhones Don’t Even Require You to Click

Since this week’s TechHub started with cybersecurity, let’s end it there. This Wired piece Lily Hay Newman is too creepy to pass up.

An iPhone vulnerability, now remedied, would’ve allowed hackers to access text message content by sending a message to the target.

The hacker would gain access even though the user didn’t click a link or even open the message.

It’s called an interaction-less attack, and it’s a terrifying realization about the fragility of our so-called secure, private communications.

One reason iPhone messaging is vulnerable is because it interfaces with so many different third-party apps. That means the attack surface for a hacker trying to exploit a coding bug could be expanding all the time.

Jeremy Boren

Jeremy is GrayMatter's Brand Manager and the author of TechHub and the emPOWERUP Podcast. He writes about digital solutions, trends and culture in the world of operational technology. Jeremy's background is in daily journalism. He has a passion for storytelling and enjoys highlighting the technologies and professionals taking on complex challenges in manufacturing, energy, cybersecurity and infrastructure.