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July 3, 2019
Massive Internet Outage & City Hack Attacks Should Remind Us All How Fast Everything Can Be Gone In A Blink Of An Eye
By Susan Duclos - All News PipeLine
Tuesday morning millions of internet websites went dark, including here at ANP, with tens of millions of people getting a 502 error page rather than the website they were trying to access. According to Cloudfare, which was behind this massive internet outage, this was due to an internal software issue much different than last weeks BPG outage which was caused by an external issue.
For about 30 minutes today, visitors to Cloudflare sites received 502 errors caused by a massive spike in CPU utilization on our network. This CPU spike was caused by a bad software deploy that was rolled back. Once rolled back the service returned to normal operation and all domains using Cloudflare returned to normal traffic levels.
While the outages were short, the list of affected locations is extremely long, too long to list them all here, but the Cloudfare Status page has them all listed towards the bottom of the page.
While Cloudfare is accepting full and total responsibility for Tuesday's outages, others have noted that DDoS attacks across the globe were significant in nature at the same time, as shown by an attack graph posted by Editor-in-Chief of Lifewire, Lance Ulanoff, to his Twitter account.
Tuesday's outages brought to mind another semi-related issue that we at ANP have been meaning to address.
There has been a substantial increase of ransomware hack attacks hitting major cities within the U.S. in 2019, which have caused their own variety of outages within those cities, costing tens of millions in damages as well as the "ransom" paid to the hackers by some of those cities.
CITY SERVICES SHUT DOWN BY CYBERATTACKS
Before 2019 began, the worst ransomware cyberattack documented was what happened in Atlanta Georgia on March 22, 2018, affecting certain city systems for more than a week, at an eventual price tag over approximately $17 million, after Atlanta decided to refuse to pay the bitcoin ransom demand.
The SamSam ransomware attack that took down the city of Atlanta's computer network in March could cost taxpayers $17 million — up from earlier estimates of $2.7 million, according to a "confidential and privileged" seven-page document reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News.
The latest cost estimate includes about $6 million in existing contracts for security services and software upgrades and $11 million in potential costs associated with the attack, including new desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets. This would mark one of the U.S.' costliest cyberattacks affecting a local government in 2018, despite city officials declining to pay the ransom demanded by the hackers.
In 2019, those attacks against multiple cities in the U.S. have increased, not only in terms of ransom demands, which some cities have paid against the advice of law enforcement, but also in terms of what services were affected.
In early May 2019, it was Baltimore's city computers that were infected by ransomware dubbed RobbinHood, which encrypted hardware data and prevented government officials from being able to access the data.
Each computer affected by the attack demanded a payment of 13 bitcoin (over $75,000) for users to regain access to their files. Gizmodo reports that the FBI specifically advised the city against paying the ransom as it would not not reduce cybersecurity costs.
Essential services like police, fire and EMTs have remained operational but the attack has affected hospitals, factories producing vaccines, airports and ATMs.
Making matters worse for Baltimore as they frantically attempted to get services restored, they couldn't access their email system, so they created a workaround by creating Gmail accounts. Google's automated security system flagged the creation of so many accounts from one area and disabled them, according to The Baltimore Sun, via securityinfowatch.com, which reported "Gmail accounts used by Baltimore officials as a workaround while the city recovers from a ransomware attack were disabled because the creation of a large number of new accounts in one place triggered Google’s automated security system. "Eventually Google restored access to the accounts.
Last month, it was reported that Riveria Beach had agreed to pay hackers $600,000 to restore its encrypted systems. A week later, Lake City’s insurance provider negotiated a payment of 42 bitcoins, or around $500,000 at the time, to unlock its computers. In the latter case, $10,000 of the money came from taxpayers.
Both Key Biscayne and Lake City were hit with Ryuk, the final piece of what is known as the “Triple threat attack,” the other two being Emotet and Trickbot malware. It’s uncertain whether the Riviera Beach attack was also based on Ryuk, which was originally linked to the notorious North Korean “Lazarus” hacking group.
While paying hackers to unlock ransomware usually isn’t advised as there’s no guarantee they’ll hand over the decryption key, city officials agreed this was the best, easiest, and cheapest—as the bulk is paid by insurers—way to address the situation.
The wealthy island town of Key Biscayne has just 3,000 residents, making it much smaller than Lake City (12,000) and Riviera Beach (35,000). A special council meeting to discuss the issue was held on Thursday, where it was decided to spend $30,000 on hiring a data recover firm, though it appears the city isn’t ruling out paying the hackers.
Over this past weekend, Georgia was hit again, this time targeting the Georgia Court system, knocking the whole system offline.
CBS News reports that while cities are the largest targets by hackers, ransomware has hit other institutes regularly. They report "In April, Cleveland Hopkins Airport suffered extended power outage issues that plagued its computers. A person familiar with the matter confirmed to CBS News that an "outside entity" was believed to be behind the outage. In March, applicants at Grinnell, Hamilton and Oberlin colleges reportedly received ransom notes from hackers claiming to have accessed their application files. The hackers initially asked for $3,890 in bitcoin payments."
PREPPING IS NOT JUST FOR 'DOOMSDAY'
While regular ANP readers know we are huge proponents of preparation and survival, it is not only a "doomsday" scenario or a terrorist attack or a weather event that those preparations are handy for.
These days almost everything is run by computer, your water (unless you have a well), your electric, even grocery stores and department stores are dependent on their computer systems, with some having nationwide failures like Target did in June. Phone systems, ATM machines, and even banks are dependent on their systems to function.
These ransomware attacks against whole cities, crippling their systems, affecting basic abilities that we all take for granted, should be a wake up call to those that think "well this would never happen here," as I am sure the small Jackson County, GA, most likely never thought they would be a target of hacking groups either.
Cyberattacks are increasing, not only targeting cities, but different large organizations and even random internet users, with no specific industry or location or type of facilities targeted, making these random attacks, one never knows when a city near you or even your own can be hit and be severely hindered in providing services, including emergency services like 911.
Be careful what emails you open, especially if they have an attachment or link, and be prepared in the event that your city becomes the next target of these hackers, because the online-related conveniences that we all take for granted, can be gone in the blink of an eye.
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