Cybersecurity

Massachusetts ferry operator hit by ransomware attack

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The largest ferry service operator to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket was hit by a ransomware attack Wednesday that hampered some operations, the latest in a string of cyberattacks in recent weeks.

The Steamship Authority of Massachusetts announced the attack on Twitter, noting that delays to service were likely. 

“The Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority has been the target of a ransomware attack that is affecting operations as of Wednesday morning,” the Steamship Authority tweeted. “As a result, customers traveling with us today may experience delays.”

“A team of IT professionals is currently assessing the impact of the attack,” the company added. “Additional information will be provided upon completion of the initial assessment.”

The attack comes amid a string of ransomware attacks on U.S. companies and organizations that have increasingly raised serious concerns about the impact of hacks on daily life.

Colonial Pipeline, which supplies around 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supply, was forced to temporarily shut down operations last month when it was targeted by a ransomware attack carried out by a Russian-based criminal group.

Earlier this week, JBS USA, the nation’s largest beef supplier, was hit by a similar ransomware attack that the company told the White House they believed to have also originated from Russia. The United Food and Commercial Workers union announced Tuesday that all JBS USA plants had been forced to halt production after the cyberattack. 

Ransomware attacks have been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, with hackers targeting vulnerable and critical organizations more likely to pay the ransom to gain back access to networks. 

Hospitals, health care networks and schools have been targeted, and in some cases have paid the ransom.

Colonial confirmed last month that it paid the hackers the equivalent of $4.4 million in Bitcoin for a key to decrypt its networks. 

The Biden administration has identified ransomware attacks as a major issue to address, with the Justice Department launching a ransomware task force in April and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas making combating ransomware his first cyber-related priority once he took office. 

“The threat is real. The threat is upon us. The risk is to all of us,” Mayorkas said during a virtual event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Colonial Pipeline Cyberattack DHS JBS USA
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