Hacked: Cyber ​​attacks hurt Quad-City taxpayers

Davenport, Iowa (KWQC) Quad-Cities schools, cities and counties have recently been victims of cyberattacks — online ransoms and scams that have netted nearly $1 million in taxpayer money and compromised the personal information of thousands of citizens.

Rock Island County lost $115,000. LeClaire, over $220,000. Molin paid the fraudsters about 420,000 dollars. And Davenport Public Schools fell victim to an extortion scam that left 6,000 students with personal information.

And these are just the cases that have been made public.

While large corporations have the resources to protect against attacks, many local governments do not – leaving public money and data to sophisticated cybercriminals.

Today, federal investigators say cybercriminals are more sophisticated than ever and are using sophisticated tactics that specifically target soft targets like schools and local governments.

FBI Omaha Field Office investigates cybercrime in four cities. Eugene Kovel is a special agent in charge.

“The cyber threat we see today is more pervasive, more dangerous, and it targets a wider range of victims than we’ve seen before. And that includes our schools and it includes our municipal governments,” he said.

“What cybercriminals are looking at is where is there a broad attack surface and where are there multiple points of vulnerability? And often they find that with our city, town and state governments.”

The attacks in the four cities are part of a global wave of cybercrime that is expected to cost $10 trillion by 2025, according to research firm Cybersecurity Ventures. For perspective, this is “exponentially larger than that damage caused by a natural disaster in a year and will be more profitable than the global trade in all major illicit drugs together.”

Criminal element

This latest generation of criminals is hard to catch. They are often organized and funded by the government, which means they operate with the blessing of American competitors.

“Many of these attacks are coming from abroad,” Kovel said. “For the FBI, we focus on two main threats: cybercriminals, an organized criminal element that attacks our nation’s businesses and communities; and we also look at nation-state adversaries, whether it’s China, Russia, Iran, North Korea.

“And sometimes we see a mix – criminal groups working on behalf of nation states or supported or supported by nation states.”

Regardless, they’re all in the same thing.

“These gangs will go after any victim they think they can make money from,” Kovel said. “They’re after the money.”

The demand for data is so widespread that there is even a black market for stolen data, where hacker groups sell and trade the ransomed data.

“Right now, we’re seeing criminals start their attacks with the ability to rent ransomware as a service, rent it from other criminals, and get instructions and even customer service from other criminal groups,” Kovel said.

Cybersecurity leaders say the same. Sophos, a British security software company, published its findings a global survey on cyber attacks in 2022, which said:

“Two-thirds of organizations have been hit by ransomware in the past year, up from 37% in 2020. That’s a 78% year-over-year increase, which shows that adversaries are carrying out critical attacks at scale” .

Coming up on Tuesday in Part II: How local governments lost taxpayer money.

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