Ransomware…. the term itself sounds daunting and it probably makes you think of ransom - a situation in which something/someone is held hostage until a demanded payment is obtained. Well, you aren’t wrong!

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that may block users from accessing their system and personal files, or threaten to publish sensitive data, which the criminal uses as leverage for demanding a ransom payment. The victim is usually provided instructions for how to pay the requested ransom with promises to restore access upon payment. 

Facts & Figures

  • Hackers made off with roughly $1.1 billion from ransomware attacks in 2023 — setting a record, according to a report from cryptocurrency tracing firm Chainalysis.
  • Statista projects that about 70% of businesses will suffer one or more ransomware attacks in 2023. These ransomware trends increased over the past five years and are the highest annual rate on record.
  • According to Fortinet, Attacks on lower education (56%) and higher education (64%) increased. While nearly half of those attacked paid the ransom to recover their data, just 2% got all the data back. It costs, on average, $1.58 million for lower education to recover and $1.42 million for higher education to recover. The process sometimes takes months.
  • Verizon reports that education, which accounted for 30% of the data breaches in 2022, experienced a significant increase in ransomware attacks, resulting in 1,241 data breach incidents. Of these attacks, 282 confirmed data loss or disclosure. External threat actors caused 75% of the violations, while 25% came from internal sources.     
  • Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that global ransomware trends for damage will experience 30% year-over-year growth over the next decade. The damages are estimated to exceed $265 billion annually by 2031, with a new attack happening every two seconds.

Who is Targeted?

When it comes to selecting victims, it could be as simple as an attacker casting a large net, sending malicious messages to any number of our users at random, or it could be a targeted attack focused specifically on high-level employees or employees from departments that are likely to have access to sensitive information.

And, while any potential ransomware attacks at BGSU have been minimal or mitigated, universities including Michigan State University, the University of California, San Francisco and Columbia College, Chicago, have not been so lucky. 

Most ransomware attempts are initiated via email, in the form of phishing message. The messages appear to originate from someone/someplace they trust and entice the users to click on a link or download an attachment. Once opened, the criminals can access the user's computer or personal data.

Protect Yourself & the University

We advise users to adopt the following security habits to help avoid falling victim to ransomware attacks:

It is very important to view incoming email messages with extreme caution. Do not respond to messages with personal/sensitive information, blindly click on links or open attachments. Check out www.bgsu.edu/phishing for additional tips. 

  • If the data is not needed, delete it.

  • If the data IS needed, ensure that is used or stored in a secure manner. You can contact the BGSU Information Security Office at infosec@bgsu.edu to discuss the best method for protecting your data.

  • DO NOT access restricted data on a personal device.

Ensure your device has all the latest updates installed.

If you have administrator rights to your University device, use them only when needed. This level of access is not necessary and should not be used during normal computer use.

Updated: 03/29/2024 10:16AM