Cyber attacks and data breaches in review: October 2021

In October, we found 94 publicly disclosed security incidents, which accounted for 51,248,331 breached records.

As ever, you can find the full list of cyber attacks and data breaches on our sister site. Here, we take a closer look at some of the more notable stories affecting European organisations.

Italian Society of Publishers and Authors hit by ransomware

The SIAE (Italian Society of Publishers and Authors) confirmed last month that it had fallen victim to a ransomware attack.

Although you might think it was an unusual target for an extortion attempt – with the majority of ransomware targeting organisations that provide critical services, such as schools and healthcare providers – the scale of the damage was more extensive than you might have initially considered.

The SIAE requires authors to verify their identity and provide tax code information and health insurance details. It also collects telephone numbers, email addresses and home addresses.

If this information falls into the wrong hands, it could have damaging consequences for affected individuals. Moreover, the incident was always going to attract additional public scrutiny, given that the victims include famous artists in the entertainment, music and theatre industries.

Despite this, the SIAE followed best-practice guidance and refused to pay the ransom. The reason this is recommended is because there is no guarantee that the attackers will return the data once they’ve received payment.

Even if the attackers do keep to their word, it will still take time to get your systems online again. It is therefore not significantly quicker to pay up than it would be to restore your systems from backups – provided you have them.

The SIAE isn’t completely in the clear, though. It has reported the incident to the Italian data protection regulator, which will now investigate whether the SIAE has appropriate cyber security defences in place.

Meanwhile, the attackers have said they are putting the stolen data up for sale on the dark web for $500,000 (about €430,000).

German education app Scoolio exploited by security researcher

A security researcher revealed last month that they had been able to exploit a vulnerability in Scoolio to access 400,000 students’ personal data.

Scoolio is a popular German student community app that’s used for tutoring, school planning, networking and finding job opportunities.

Lilith Wittmann wrote that she had discovered a flawed API, through which she was able to view users’ names, the GPS location at which they last opened the app, the names of their school, classes they took and their interests.

She was also able to view the email addresses of users and their parents, as well as information that’s considered special category data under the GDPR, including users’ religion and sexuality.

Wittmann disclosed the vulnerability to Scoolio in September, and the vulnerability was made public after the app released a patch on 25 October 2021.

European Parliament votes to strengthen EU cyber security rules

MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) have voted almost unanimously to strengthen the EU’s cyber security requirements.

It comes in response to continued increases in cyber attacks – with ransomware being viewed as a particularly dangerous threat.

Following the vote, which was passed 70 to 3, the MEP in charge of the file, Bart Groothuis, said:

“It is very important that we move fast at a fast pace so that hackers do not prefer to come to Europe and strike here, but also to heighten security posture and to broaden the scope of it.”

He added: “Because it is also important that we’ve seen a ransomware pandemic growing across the globe but especially across Europe in the pandemic we’ve seen hospitals being attacked but also institutions.”

Although the EU is often praised for its strict cyber security requirements – with the introduction of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) being particularly significant – Groothuis noted that the region spends less on cyber security than the US.

We invest about 41% less in cybersecurity than what Americans do. On average. That is something that we really have to address,” Groothuis said.

“And it is very important that we do so in order to counter threats that come mainly from Russia when it comes to ransomware but also from nation-state attacks from China, Iran and others who try to infiltrate our networks in order to gain a geopolitical effect.”

Are you prepared for cyber attacks?

If you suffer a cyber security incident, IT Governance is here to help.

Our Cyber Incident Response – Emergency Support service gives you the help you need to deal with the threat.

Our experts will guide you through the recovery process, reviewing the breach, mitigating the damage and ensuring that you are up and running again as soon as possible.

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