Companies Reminded to Stay Vigilant Against Cyber Threats During Holidays, Weekends

November 30, 2021

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently issued an alert reminding companies that holidays and weekends are often a time when cyber criminals look to disrupt critical networks and systems.

According to the agencies, there are actions that executives, leaders and workers in any organization can take proactively to protect themselves against cyberattacks, including possible ransomware attacks, during the holiday season. This is a time when offices are often closed, and employees are home with their friends and families. Although neither CISA nor the FBI currently have identified any specific threats, recent 2021 trends show malicious cyber actors launching serious and impactful ransomware attacks during holidays and weekends, including Independence Day and Mother’s Day weekends.

  • In May 2021, leading into Mother’s Day weekend, malicious cyber actors deployed DarkSide ransomware against the IT network of a U.S.-based critical infrastructure entity in the Energy Sector, resulting in a week-long suspension of operations. After DarkSide actors gained access to the victim’s network, they deployed ransomware to encrypt victim data and—as a secondary form of extortion—exfiltrated the data before threatening to publish it to further pressure victims into paying the ransom demand.
  • In May 2021, over the Memorial Day weekend, a critical infrastructure entity in the Food and Agricultural Sector suffered a Sodinokibi/REvil ransomware attack affecting U.S. and Australian meat production facilities, resulting in a complete production stoppage.
  • In July 2021, during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Sodinokibi/REvil ransomware actors attacked a U.S.-based critical infrastructure entity in the IT Sector and implementations of their remote monitoring and management tool, affecting hundreds of organizations—including multiple managed service providers and their customers.

CISA and the FBI strongly urge all entities to examine their current cybersecurity posture and implement best practices and mitigations to manage the risk posed by cyber threats. Specifically, CISA and the FBI urge users and organizations to take the following actions to protect themselves from becoming the next victim:

  • Identify IT security employees for weekends and holidays who would be available to surge during these times in the event of an incident or ransomware attack. 
  • Implement multi-factor authentication for remote access and administrative accounts.
  • Mandate strong passwords and ensure they are not reused across multiple accounts. 
  • If you use remote desktop protocol (RDP) or any other potentially risky service, ensure it is secure and monitored. 
  • Remind employees not to click on suspicious links, and conduct exercises to raise awareness. 

Additionally, CISA and the FBI recommend maintaining vigilance against the multiple techniques cybercriminals use to gain access to networks, including:

Finally—to reduce the risk of severe business/functional degradation should your organization fall victim to a ransomware attack—review and, if needed, update your incident response and communication plans. These plans should list actions to take—and contacts to reach out to—should your organization be impacted by a ransomware incident.

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Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.

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