Media reports indicate that malicious actors wielding Ryuk ransomware were responsible for a cyberattack on the Tampa Bay Times.

According to the newspaper’s own reporting, the Tampa Bay Times cyberattack occurred on Jan. 23, 2020. Officials at the Tampa Bay Times said it was unclear how the ransomware infection occurred. Even so, they shared their belief that attackers had not specifically targeted the publication.

The attack consisted of a Ryuk ransomware infection that affected some of the newspaper’s primary systems. A subsequent investigation revealed that the ransomware had not breached any of the Tampa Bay Times customers’ data, such as their addresses or payment card details. As clarified by officials, this data was stored securely outside of the network at the time of the infection.

At the time of writing, the Tampa Bay Times had recovered most of its affected systems using backups, and it was in the process of confirming that it had completely removed the malicious code from its network. It had also declined to respond to a ransom note issued by the attackers.

A Promising Start to 2020 for Ryuk

The Tampa Bay Times cyberattack marks the latest event in an already busy year for Ryuk ransomware. Back in mid-January, for instance, Bleeping Computer covered the threat’s use of the Wake-on-Lan feature to wake up powered-down devices for the purpose of encrypting greater swaths of a compromised network.

On Jan. 22, Coveware shared its ransomware findings for the fourth quarter of 2019, including, among other revelations, the observation that Ryuk’s average ransom payment had climbed to $780,000. And on Jan. 24, Bleeping Computer reported on the discovery of the new Ryuk Stealer malware that may or may not be connected to the Ryuk ransomware gang.

Lessons From the Tampa Bay Times Cyberattack

Security professionals can help avoid incidents like the Tampa Bay Times cyberattack by conducting cyber resiliency workshops for their workforce. These exercises can help educate employees about phishing attacks and other common delivery vectors for ransomware. Additionally, infosec personnel should implement a data backup strategy for their organization’s critical information and regularly test that strategy.

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