Survey: Ransomware Will Continue to Threaten Public Sector Organizations in 2020

Christos Georghiou/

About one-third of the state and federal IT officials who responded said they faced a ransomware attack in the last three years. 

Ransomware attacks on state governments garnered national headlines in recent years, but a survey suggests they’re also affecting federal agencies. 

The survey, underwritten by Veritas and conducted by FedScoop and StateScoop, indicates 30% of federal IT respondents and 32% of state IT respondents experienced recent ransomware attacks in the last three years.

More than 80% of respondents in the survey believe ransomware attacks “continue to be as great, if not a greater threat,” in 2020.

Furthermore, the survey indicates 24% of those respondents paid money to recover data, disregarding recommendations from the FBI and Homeland Security Department. Ten percent of public sector respondents reported their agencies were not able to recover access to their data.

In ransomware attacks, bad actors gain access to a system, encrypt data and demand payment to restore access. Such attacks have become more prevalent in recent years. In March 2018, the city of Atlanta’s computer networks were hijacked, and costs associated with the attack topped $17 million.  

Collectively, federal and state respondents ranked phishing, malware and ransomware as their top three cybersecurity concerns. One of the reasons why ransomware attacks are concerning to state and federal IT officials is that data is not often easily recoverable. According to the survey, 34% of federal IT officials said their agency could fully recover their most critical data within 12 hours of a ransomware or malware attack. 

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