Ryuk Ransomware Believed to Have Disrupted Major US Newspapers in Recent Cyberattacks

Several major U.S. newspapers reported they were victims of production-disrupting cyberattacks around the holidays.

On December 29, the Los Angeles Times noted that an unknown actor used what experts believe to be Ryuk ransomware to infect systems needed to publish the newspaper, including computers that store news stories, photographs and administrative information. As a result, the newspaper was unable to publish the print edition for December 29 on time.

The Los Angeles Times wasn’t the only media outlet to suffer such a disruption. The Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant, The Baltimore Sun and other publications owned by Tribune Publishing all experienced similar incidents around the same time. Tribune Publishing sold the Los Angeles Times earlier this year, but still provides printing services to the publication as part of the transition process.

What Is Ryuk Ransomware?

Ryuk is a family of ransomware known for its targeted attacks against various enterprises. Check Point tracked the threat for a period of two weeks in the summer of 2018. Although its ransom demands ranged from 15 to 50 bitcoin, Ryuk managed to generate $640,000 for its operators over that short span of time.

Unlike other malware families distributed by exploit kits and massive spam campaigns, Ryuk represents a new generation of targeted ransomware. It joins the ranks of SamSam, which had caused $30 million in losses to victims and collected $6 million in ransom payments for its operators as of November 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). These targeted attacks were part of why Europol said in 2018 that ransomware remains the dominant malware threat facing organizations.

How to Defend Against a Ransomware Attack

To defend against a targeted ransomware attack, security professionals should educate employees on how to spot common social engineering tricks. Organizations should also apply layers of data protection to their IT environments, including regular backups, robust encryption and secure cloud storage.

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant, The Baltimore Sun, Check Point, U.S. Department of Justice, Europol

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David Bisson

Contributing Editor

David Bisson is an infosec news junkie and security journalist. He works as Contributing Editor for Graham Cluley...