Business owners everywhere were reminded of the devastating effects a ransomware attack could have on their operations after a “severe” hack hit one of the world’s largest aluminium producers.
Norwegian firm Hydro, which employs more than 35,000 people in 40 countries, uses digital systems in its smelting plants to ensure they operate efficiently. However, a new – and seemingly very sophisticated – attack shut many of these systems down, which lead to production at some plants grinding to a halt.
Whilst the exact type of hack hasn’t yet been officially confirmed, it’s thought to have been caused by LockerGoga, a relatively new player in the ransomware game. This piece of malware is manually installed on a system, typically by someone with administrator access. It then sets about logging users off, changing their passwords and then encrypting files. All that’s left is a .txt note on the desktop, informing users that the system has been hacked and the next steps that need to be taken for their files to be safely released.
Perhaps most interestingly, LockerGoga purports to have been created by experts who know what they’re doing. This is a big deal, because many other ransomware tools are created by amateurs, meaning that encrypted data frequently ends up being so scrambled that, even if it’s released, it’s of little use to the business anyway. So, as companies become more aware of this, they’re even less incentivised to pay the ransom.
If LockerGaga is as professional as it claims to be, this could make the idea of shelling out the ransom a more compelling one. To back up its argument, the ransom note even invites company directors to send them a few random encrypted files so they could be unencrypted and returned in their original condition by way of proof.
As is customary with these types of attack, the hackers are trading on panic – with a promise that the ransom price will increase the longer it goes unpaid.
Currently, Hydro is working to resolve the issue and get back online, though in that time production has dropped – and so too its share price. It all goes to show just how important it is for businesses large and small to ensure they don’t become the next victims.