(ETH) – It can feel abstract: A group of organized but faceless criminals hijacking corporate computer systems and demanding millions of dollars in exchange for their safe return.

But the impact of these ransomware attacks is increasingly, unavoidably, real for everyday people. These crimes have resulted in missed chemotherapy appointments and delayed ambulances, lost school days, and transportation problems. A ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline in May led to gas shortages and even dangerous situations caused by panic buying.

This past week, hackers compromised the JBS meat processing company, leading to worries about meat shortages or other key food providers being at risk. Last fall, the Baltimore County Public Schools system was hit with ransomware and forced to halt classes for two days, which were being held virtually.


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As recently as Wednesday, ransomware attacks were causing problems across the country. In Martha’s Vineyard, the ferry service transporting people to and from the Massachusetts island said it had been hit by a ransomware attack that disrupted its ticketing and reservation process. Ferries continued operating all week, but the ticketing system was still affected, causing delays, on Friday.

The recent spate of high-profile ransomware incidents is exactly what cybersecurity professionals have been warning about for years. But it’s partially the impact on everyday people — far from the executive suites, cybersecurity companies, or government agencies that regularly fret about the criminal enterprise — that has made the risk more visible. The ripple effects of ransomware can result in everything from mild inconvenience to people losing their lives, and it’s only increased in frequency during the pandemic. READ MORE

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