Staff working at the PGA Championship discovered ransomware on their computer systems ahead of the 100th championship in Missouri.
Hackers took control of the American PGA’s systems, encrypted key promotional materials and demanded a bitcoin ransom from the golf association to return the files with stern warning that any attempt to break their encryption would result in a complete loss of files held on the system.
This echoes the WannaCry attack which hit the NHS as well as other organisations, which caused damage estimated at around $1bn globally.
Ransomware is a popular hacking tool that is materialising again after being basically non-existent at beginning of the year. According to the annual Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, nearly 40% of all successful malware-based attacks contained ransomware.
Ransomware works by encrypting the data held on a network’s server, after which the hackers then demand a ransom for its release, usually to be paid in cryptocurrency. Most cyber experts advise against paying this as it encourages the criminal activity and there is no guarantee that the files will be unlocked.
“Ransomware breaches doubled last year and could double again this year,” said Gabe Bassett, Senior Information Security Scientist at Verizon, who helped compile and write the report.
Desktop machines or laptops are the most likely to be compromised although attackers are now looking to attack more business-critical systems as these attract a larger pay-out.
Bill Conner, Chief Executive of IT security firm SonicWall said:
“Ransomware is really the first time that medium and small companies have been targeted. But they are least prepared because they have the least money and they cannot go out and hire cyber experts.”
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