Data Leaks and Ransomware Attacks 2023: Education Top Target, US Leads in Hits

The year 2023 is hardly two weeks old, but neither the novelty nor the holiday season has put a break on cybercrime. While the US has faced the most attacks, the education has replaced the usual suspect healthcare as the top target. 

The Cyber Express took a recce of our regular sources of hacking and breach intelligence to find close to 50 data leaks and ransomware attacks incidents in the last 10 days. While the figure is not comprehensive, it is a clear indicator of a year worse than 2022.

Data leaks and ransomware attacks 2023 

Intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, governments, and cybersecurity experts and professionals have been innovating, discussing, and brainstorming mechanisms to decrease data leaks in January 2023 and beyond.  

The leak site of ransomware groups kept their numbers up by adding newer names from varying sectors including SickKids Hospital, Bombardier Aerospace, Spirit Aerospace, Laselle university, and AT&T. Cybercriminal gangs such as Endurance, Clop, Hive, and LockBit continued their effort in the first few days of the new year.  

The Cyber Express spotted 45 instances of data leaks and ransomware attacks from January 1 to 10. Education was the top targeted sector, with eight instances spotted by The Cyber Express, followed by healthcare (6) and manufacturing (5).

Data Leaks and Ransomware Attacks 2023 

US remains the most targeted region with 13 instances, followed by UK and Canada with four targets each. ALPHV, Royal and LockBit were the most prolific attackers with four targets each.

Data Leaks and Ransomware Attacks 2023

Readers must consider two valid points here: The actual number could be only higher than 45, as several instances remain undisclosed. The number 45 is a poor indicator of the actual scale of damage. 

Data leaks: The real damage 

Take the case of one US target: the New York-based non-profit ElderPlan. Hive ransomware gang put the data of 44,745 patients on sale on their leak. What showed up as one target on our radar has affected at least 44,745 individuals directly. 

The Health and Human Services issued an alert for the health sector in the United States of America about the Clop ransomware gang that sent phishing emails posing as doctors. Clop also put a price of $387 on the exfiltrated data from Unisalle, and La Selle university. Endurance gang put up over 37 million records belonging to AT&T telecommunications company.   

Out of the tens and hundreds of names of victims noted on the leak site and the deep dark web, some have spoken about it to the media while others have noted witnessing some technical issues. 

While the attack on the systems of SickKids put its system on code grey, the gang did ‘apologize’ for targeting a hospital that was outside of their cybercrime policy.  

2023: Data breaches and defence 

Researchers have been debating the use of passwords, biometrics, and MFA to stop account access which forms the basis of allowing system access in most online crimes. With global CISOs claiming to create a threat landscape and work on one problem and then protect from other range of attack vectors, it may be reduced upon application. 

Australia increased the fine sum for defaulting companies impacting the privacy of data. Professionals and fresh graduates have been promoted with cybersecurity skills and certifications to fill the workforce gap.

The European Commission working towards the EU-US data privacy framework that will watch over the data flow of the trans-Atlantic region, while these regulations are happening in other geographies:

  • California privacy rights and acts (CPRA) and California consumer privacy act (CCPA) for California residents will undergo compliance improvement this year. 
  • The Indian defense ministry will oversee telecom industry’s use of artificial intelligence. 
  • The U.S. Department of Defense will move ahead with their zero-trust strategy. 
  • The Indian government plans to have more access to data based on the Data Protection Bill. 

With the changing policies around data, insurance, and the increased cybersecurity infrastructure budget, there are positive changes to look forward to. Not paying a ransom has become a motto of companies with several companies already following suit.

Companies have witnessed over 200 million ransomware attacks in the first quarter of 2022. And newer attacks are reported every 2 seconds. It has been made clear to organizations big, medium, and small that going for cybersecurity best practice is imperative.  

Even though cyberattacks are rising at a speed that is appalling, solutions, help from companies, and awareness are increasing.

Hence, it cannot be said for certain that losses will reach $20 trillion by 2026 as predicted. As the unthinkable is yet to be experienced. With increased cyber resilience, nations can bring down the numbers despite state-sponsored threats and threat actors being active.  

Not just attack vectors and ransomware, there is a robust digital transformation also in the pipeline to look forward to.

“I am proud of what the Army has been able to accomplish in just two short years through digital transformation. We have achieved irreversible momentum at a scale and pace that will endure,” the soon-to-retire chief information officer of the United States army Raj Iyer wrote in a LinkedIn post assuring that the progress and defense are around the corner. 

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