Washington: Targeted ransomware attacks on US government entities, cities, police stations and schools, are on the rise, costing localities millions as some pay off the perpetrators in an effort to untangle themselves and restore vital systems, the media reported.
The tally by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future found that at least 170 county, city or state government systems have been attacked since 2013, including at least 45 police and sheriff's offices, CNN reported on Friday.
The firm compiled all known instances of ransomware infections of local government systems, a type of cyberattack that encrypts a computer's files, where the attacker demands payment, usually in bitcoin, for a key to unlock them.
The federal government and the FBI do not track the attacks nationwide.
There have been 22 known public-sector attacks so far in 2019, which would outpace 2018, and that does not take into account that attacks often aren't reported until months or years after they're discovered.
The latest major city to be hit is Baltimore, which was infected with ransomware on Tuesday. It has quarantined its networks and been forced to provide most of its municipal services manually.
At the end of March, New York's state capital, Albany, admitted it had been hit with ransomware.
Law enforcement also was targeted in Texas in March, when the Fisher County sheriff's office was infected and reportedly lost the ability to connect to a state-wide law enforcement database.
Late April, Genesee County, Michigan, announced that it was finally ransomware-free, after an attack effectively shut down the county's tax department for most of the month.
The first known small government ransomware infection hit the small town of Greenland, New Hampshire, in 2013 but the number of attacks didn't explode until 2016, when there were 46.
The number dropped to 38 in 2017 -- indicative of a temporary worldwide reduction in ransomware infections -- before rising to 53 last year.