Ransomware Advisory

July 29, 2021

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem Joins Fellow Attorneys General in Alerting Businesses to Take Prompt Action to Protect Operations and Personal Information

BISMARCK, ND – Following an unnerving increase in the frequency and scale of ransomware attacks across the globe—underscored by the massive attack on software company Kaseya on the brink of the July 4th holiday weekend—Attorney General Stenehjem joins attorneys general across the country in urging businesses and government entities to assess their current data security practices and take appropriate steps to protect operations and consumer data.

“The current proliferation of ransomware attacks throughout the country have thrust to the forefront this critical issue and looming threat and could have unparalleled consequences to consumers, businesses and critical infrastructure,” said Stenehjem. “We must be more than vigilant and have the highest possible levels of preparedness in government and the private sectors in order to fully protect our information systems and avoid financial and other possible disastrous or life-altering consequences.”   

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.

Stenehjem co-chairs the National Association of Attorneys’ General’s Internet Safety/ Cyber Privacy & Security Committee, which serves as a resource for the attorney general community to discuss privacy issues. The Committee supports the recommendations in a June 2021 memo issued by Anne Neuberger, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, titled “What We Urge You To Do To Protect Against The Threat of Ransomware,” including implementing the best practices from the President’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, which are: 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 its defenses).

Stenehjem pointed out that all organizations, regardless of size, face the threat of a ransomware attack. The US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provide online guidance on their respective websites to assist businesses with best practices.

Victims of ransomware should report it immediately to CISA, a local FBI Field Office, or Secret Service Field Office. Victims should also file a report online through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (https://www.ic3.gov/).

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