Experts unveil plan to combat ransomware attacks

A coalition of experts on Thursday unveiled a road map for the federal government and industry to potentially use in combating ransomware attacks, which have spiked over the past year as hackers targeted organizations including hospitals and schools.

The report, created by the Institute for Security and Technology’s Ransomware Task Force, describes ransomware attacks as an “urgent national security risk,” and lays out 48 steps to take to immediately work across the public and private sector to confront the threat.

“Tackling ransomware will not be easy; there is no silver bullet for solving this challenge,” task force members wrote. “This global challenge demands an ‘all hands on deck’ approach, with support from the highest levels of government.”

The report serves as one of the first major efforts to present the federal government and industry leaders with a plan to combat ransomware attacks, which have increased massively during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data cited in the report, nearly 2,400 U.S. organizations were victimized by ransomware in 2020, including nearly 1,700 U.S. schools, colleges and universities, and 560 health care facilities, delaying and endangering patient treatment.

Additionally, ransomware victims paid close to $350 million worth of cryptocurrency in 2020 to unlock their systems, an increase of more than 300 percent from 2019.