Attorney General Tong Urges Caution Following FinalSite Ransomware Attack Impacting Connecticut Schools
(Hartford, CT) – With the FinalSite ransomware attack impacting thousands of school websites and communications systems nationwide, Attorney General William Tong reminded businesses and government entities to assess their data security practices to protect operations and consumer data against growing cybersecurity threats.
Ransomware is a form of malware designed to encrypt files on a device, rendering any files and the systems that rely on them unusable. Cybercriminals demand ransom in exchange for decryption, often threatening to sell or leak exfiltrated information if the ransom is not paid. Ransomware is a growing threat, generating billions of dollars in payments to cybercriminals and inflicting significant damage on businesses and government entities alike.
“We are monitoring the FinalSite breach closely. Right now, there is no evidence that student data or personal information has been compromised, which would trigger notification requirements to our office. No business or government entity is immune from a ransomware attack. Regardless of size, or whether you are in the public or private sector, there are measures we all can and must take to protect consumer data, privacy, and our critical infrastructure,” said Attorney General Tong.
Best practices for preventing ransomware attacks include:
- Implement the five best practices from the President’s Executive Order: The President’s Executive Order on “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity” outlines five high-impact best practices that will significantly reduce the risk of a cyberattack: multifactor authentication (because passwords alone are routinely compromised), endpoint detection and response (to hunt for malicious activity on a network and block it), encryption (so if data is stolen, it is unusable) and a skilled, empowered security team (to patch rapidly, and share and incorporate threat information in your defenses).
- Backup your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline: Ensure that backups are regularly tested and that they are not connected to the business network, as many ransomware variants try to find and encrypt or delete accessible backups. Maintaining current backups offline is critical because if your network data is encrypted with ransomware, your organization can restore systems.
- Update and patch systems promptly: This includes maintaining the security of operating systems, applications, and firmware, in a timely manner. Consider using a centralized patch management system; use a risk-based assessment strategy to drive your patch management program.
- Test your incident response plan: There is nothing that shows the gaps in plans more than testing them. Run through some core questions and use those to build an incident response plan: Are you able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Would you turn off your manufacturing operations if business systems such as billing were offline?
- Check your security team’s work: Use a third-party penetration tester to test the security of your systems and your ability to defend against a sophisticated attack. Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors.
- Segment your networks: There has been a recent shift in ransomware attacks—from stealing data to disrupting operations. It is critically important that your corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations are separated and that you carefully filter and limit internet access to operational networks, identify links between these networks, and develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure industrial control system (ICS) networks can be isolated and continue operating if your corporate network is compromised. Regularly test contingency plans such as manual controls so that safety critical functions can be maintained during a cyber incident.
- More information can be found here.
Also today, Attorney General Tong announced a new online form designed to help businesses comply with their obligation to notify the Office of the Attorney General when they experience a data breach impacting Connecticut residents.
Attorney General Tong co-chairs the National Association of Attorneys’ General’s Internet Safety / Cyber Privacy and Security Committee, which serves as a resource for the attorney general community to discuss privacy issues.