It goes without saying that ransomware gangs have been keen to go after the big fish when looking to cash in big bucks through eye-watering ransom demands.
This reality is reflected on expert cybersecurity findings that Israel topped the list of countries targeted by ransomware groups in the year 2020, which adds to observations of U.S. companies being favourite candidates in brazen ransomware attacks.
Also, just recently, a hacker stole an Argentinian government database holding the private information belonging to 46 million citizens and went ahead to begin selling the large trove of data within underground platforms. This was expected to expose the millions of Argentinians to potential cyberattacks in the form of exploits, scams and breaches.
However, the trend of threat groups targeting tech giants and first world governments seems to be changing if the latest news are anything to go by: ransomware attackers have targeted one of the world’s poorest countries, Papua New Guinea.
The cybercriminals behind the ransomware attack did not seem to care about the state of the country’s economy in light of the ransom demand that was made in Bitcoin – the authorities in Papua New Guinea did not reveal the exact amount of the crypto that was demanded by the threat actors.
Just to give a bit of background, Papua New Guinea is an island country of nine million people ravaged by extreme poverty. Located North of Australia, the country that boasts an abundance of natural resources is still struggling to keep up with other economies due to limited infrastructure and a population that is dominantly domiciled in remote regions.
The country has been stuck knee-deep in economic problems to the point of becoming heavily dependent on foreign aid to maintain its healthcare system and other critical public services – the aid is quoted to the tune of millions of dollars obtained mostly from the Australian people.
Quite obviously, the dire economic situation has been made worse by the longstanding COVID-19 pandemic that obliterated the country’s already-struggling healthcare system.
Ransomware Attack Crippled the Department of Finance
The ransomware attack against the government of Papua New Guinea is reported to have targeted the country’s Department of Finance leading to a serious disruption of the government body’s capacity to facilitate the flow of funds.
It turns out that the cyberattack caused the locking of government workers out of the Integrated Financial Management System that’s responsible for receiving and processing foreign aid that the country greatly depends.
However, not too long after reports of the cyberattack surfaced, the island nation’s government announced that the country had recovered from the cyberattack and that all systems had been fully restored back to working order. It remains unclear whether the government of Papua New Guinea met the cyberattackers’ ransom demand in exchange for control of its seized systems.
There is no telling about the scale of economic losses that may have been incurred by the Papua New Guinea government in case they actually yielded to the cybercriminals’ ransom demands. The burden would add to the ballooning struggles experienced in vaccinating the island country’s population against COVID-19 – reports indicate that only 1.2 percent of its citizens have received the jab.