A suspected ransomware attack has caused significant disruption to IT systems at Western Isles local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. The council said access to its systems had been affected. The Scottish government and computer company Dell have been helping Comhairle nan Eilean Siar deal with the situation.
In a ransomware attack, hackers use malicious software to scramble and steal an organisation’s computer data. The attack comes after the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) had thousands of digital files stolen in cyber attack in 2020. In February this year, Audit Scotland said that some public money had been written off as a result, but the full financial impact was still unknown.
A ransomware attack uses a type of software designed to disrupt or gain access to a computer system. The information is then encrypted making it difficult for a user to access their files or the information may be deleted or leaked. A group behind the attack may then demand money – a ransom – for return of the data or to prevent it being leaked. These types of attacks are not uncommon.
In 2021, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency had more than 4,000 digital files stolen. And even tech firms are at risk. Last year Edinburgh-based Rockstar Games, creator of Grand Theft Auto, had footage and details of an unreleased game leaked online, with hackers threatening to release more unless a deal was reached. The advice to companies is not to pay a ransom as this might make them a target in the future and is no guarantee that data will be returned.