Major Malware Attacks in 2021

JMA Consulting

In mid-July 2021, Fox Business reported that ransomware attacks in North America have surged 32% in 2021 alone. But this trend is not unique to the United States and its North American neighbors. Countries across the globe are also seeing an increase in the frequency of malicious cyberattacks.

Despite these concerning trends, many organizations still do not have modern cybersecurity protocols in place. This is often because small to medium-sized businesses subscribe to the “it will never happen to me” line of thinking. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.

While massive corporations receive most of the media attention, small businesses are prime targets for malware attacks. According to a CNBC report, 43% of these attacks are aimed at small businesses.

To reiterate the very real dangers of malware attacks, we have outlined two of the most recent cybersecurity incidents in 2021. These two massive data incidents cost millions of dollars and were carried out against organizations that are integral to America’s economy. One target was the Colonial Pipeline and the second was New Cooperative, Inc. 

Read on to find out just how much havoc these savvy cybercriminals caused for these multi-million-dollar organizations.

What Is Malware?

Before we shift our attention to the specific malware attacks, it is important to define malware. 

Generally speaking, malware is the broad term used to describe various types of malicious software. Malware is software that is designed to intentionally damage a server, network, computer, or other technological resource.

The most common types of malwares are:

  • Trojans
  • Spyware
  • Adware
  • Rootkits
  • Ransomware
  • Worms
  • Keyloggers

Both attacks below utilized ransomware. This extortion software holds the victim’s network and data hostage until they pay a predetermined ransom amount. 

Many times, hackers ask for the ransom to be paid in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. This is because it is believed to allow the attackers to maintain their anonymity.

Colonial Pipeline Incident

The Colonial Pipeline attack was one of the most significant malware attacks in recent history. On April 29th, hackers gained access to the Colonial Pipeline Co.’s networks, crippling the essential fuel provider.

What Happened?

Cyber security has become a thriving industry as hackers employ viruses and r

In the weeks following the incident, Colonial Pipeline Co. and their cybersecurity provider began assessing the intrusion. They discovered that hackers gained access to their networks using a virtual private network, or VPN. This technology was being used by Colonial Pipeline Co. to allow their staff to remotely access the organization’s network.  

Specifically, hackers targeted an employee’s account that was not active, but was still connected to the company’s network. While it is uncertain how hackers obtained the password to that employee’s VPN account, it was discovered among other leaked passwords. The account did not use multifactor authentication, which is a common tool that can prevent many malware attacks.

Once hackers gained access to the network, they utilized ransomware to hold the company’s digital assets hostage. The digital “ransom note” was not discovered until more than a week later, on the morning of May 7th. Over the next hour, the pipeline was completely shut down.

How Much Damage Was Caused?

The Colonial Pipeline Co. malware attack caused widespread panic as millions of citizens rushed to buy fuel. While the pipeline was out of service, many gas stations ran out of fuel and prices soared.

The pipeline and their security partners were unable to resolve the issue on their own. They were forced to pay the $4.4 million ransom to the cybercrime group known as Darkside. 

Colonial Pipeline Co. was able to resume some services on May 12th, but the company suffered millions of dollars in damages and lost massive amounts of data.

New Cooperative, Inc. Ransomware Attack

New Cooperative, Inc. is the latest in a long line of victims that have fallen prey to malware attacks. New Cooperative, Inc. is a member-owned organization that provides agriculture services to suppliers in the grain, pork, beef, and chicken industries.

What Happened?

New Cooperative, Inc. is the latest in a long line of victims that have fallen prey

On September 19, 2021, New Cooperative, Inc. staff members discovered that their network was infiltrated by ransomware. 

To contain the attack, the organization was forced to take its entire computer network offline. This network includes soil-mapping capabilities, fertilization and irrigation technologies, and shipping/distribution software.

The organization is still assessing the scope of the attack. As of now, they have not determined how hackers gained access to the network or how much data was compromised. They continue to work to resolve the issue and have developed a temporary workaround that allows them to continue accepting shipments. 

However, prolonged service outages can jeopardize vital supply chains for farmers throughout the nation.

How Much Damage Was Caused?

The attackers are demanding a $5.9 million ransom in exchange for decryption tools that will allow New Cooperative, Inc. to bring their network back online. 

These attackers are purportedly part of a group known as BlackMatter. The organization claims to have ties to other groups like DarkSide, who was linked to the Colonial Pipeline Co. ransomware attack.

While it is too early to calculate the total impact of this attack, the damage could be severe, especially if the outage is not resolved quickly. 

In addition to the ransom amount, the organization will likely lose millions of dollars in revenue. This does not include their many customers who will be unable to continue normal operations due to grain shortages.

Innovative Malware Protection from JMA Consulting

As you can see, malware attacks pose a very real threat to companies of all sizes. These attacks not only damage brand reputations and compromise consumer data, but they can also cost the victims millions of dollars. 

With so much at risk, businesses must get serious about cybersecurity. And this does not mean simply installing passive anti-malware software and hoping for the best.

Instead, partner with a managed service provider like JMA Consulting. Our organization specializes in advanced cybersecurity solutions, as well as:

  • Cloud implementation and management
  • Network management
  • Privacy and compliance concerns
  • Email Migration and Security 

If you would like to learn more about our comprehensive services, contact JMA Consulting today. We will find the best combination of services to meet the unique needs of your organization.