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It is important that every park district in Illinois understands what ransomware is and how prepared you are.


Ransomware is computer malware that can infect your computers A ransomware infection is designed to encrypt every file it can find as it spreads across your network. As files are encrypted, they are no longer usable, effectively paralyzing every technology system at your park district. Once ransomware infects your systems removing the encryption is near impossible without having the specific key that was originally used to encrypt everyone's data. After the hacker or infiltrator confirms a successful infiltration, they will request money for the key as  “ransom” to allow recovery of your files.  

Based on published statistics the average ransom demanded from governmental related organizations in 2020 was $570,857.00. That figure does not take into consideration lost time and productivity. When considering downtime, recovery costs, and lost revenue the estimate is over eighteen billion dollars. Historically the costs of ransomware have grown year after year by approximately 35% with Illinois being in the top 5 states targeted by ransomware attacks. 

Effectively protecting your park district can be challenging. Often budgets and size play a big factor in IT initiatives. The landscape of these threats is constantly evolving. To stay safe your technology needs constant attention. Funding challenges for technology advancements and proactive support limit what is possible for many park districts. Often a false sense of security exists about  being prepared only to discover the hard way you were vulnerable.

Illinois currently has 13 pieces of cybersecurity legislation in process with a couple already enacted. These include expected safeguards, key controls, documented procedures and more. There is also federal legislation in process to regulate and try to combat ongoing threats. It is important to stay aware of this legislation and adapt your approach to stay compliant. It is becoming commonplace for insurance providers to require audits to ensure the proper security is in place. 

So now that all the scary stuff is out there, here are some ways to confirm your  park district is prepared to survive an attack. This is  a list of questions to which you should be able to answer yes. If you outsource your IT support and are not sure of the answer, ask your service provider. 

  • Do you have a written plan on the steps to recover from a ransomware attack?
  • Are your files being backed to the cloud nightly that disconnects after completing?
  • Are images of your servers also being backed up to the cloud?
  • Do you have a next generation firewall that is designed for ransomware detection?
  • Does your firewall block countries known for initiating ransomware attacks?
  • Do you have endpoint software designed for ransomware that works together with a  firewall designed for ransomware?
  • Is your email scanned for spam and infections?
  • Does your policy prohibit the sharing of user accounts ?
  • Do you have and enforce  a strong password policy with regular changes?
  • Is regular cybersecurity training completed by your staff?

It is important to periodically confirm safeguards are in place to protect your park district from the threat of ransomware. Having an internal team or IT support partner that is proactively adapting to changes in cybersecurity is critical. The alternative could be devastating.

IT Management & Support