About two-thirds of 2019 ransomware attacks in America have targeted state and local governments, according to an Aug. 28 report published by Barracuda Networks, a cybersecurity group.

Barracuda researchers examined “hundreds of attacks across a broad set of targets,” revealing that “government organizations are the intended victims of nearly two-thirds of all ransomware attacks,” the report states, adding that attacks happened at all governmental levels – local, county, and state, including schools, courts, and libraries.

The researchers examined 55 ransomware attacks on state, county, and local governments that have occurred this year, and of that total, three were at the state level, while 14 and 38 were respectively at the county and local levels.

“About 45 percent of the municipalities attacked had populations of less than 50,000 residents, and 24 percent had less than 15,000 residents,” the report said. “Smaller towns are often more vulnerable because they lack the technology or resources to protect against ransomware attacks. Nearly 16 percent of the municipalities attacked were cities with populations of more than 300,000 residents.”

Ryuk, SamSam, LockerGoga, and RobbinHood have been the most common forms of ransomware used in the incidents Barracuda analyzed, and off the 55 attacks this year, two town governments and one county paid the ransom. Lake City and Riviera Beach, both in Florida, paid 42 and 65 Bitcoin, or $500,000 and $600,000, respectively. La Porte County in Indiana paid $130,000 to recover its data.

Barracuda recommended a variety of defense strategies and actions to take against ransomware attacks, which include:

  • Spam filters and phishing detection systems;
  • Advanced network firewalls;
  • Malware detection;
  • Blacklists;
  • User-awareness training; and
  • Cloud and other backup solutions.
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