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2020 was good — for ransomware

Ransomware became more lucrative than ever last year, with the average payment more than doubling as malicious actors continued to target all sectors, especially governments, schools and hospitals, according to research published Wednesday by Palo Alto Networks. Tactics like double extortion — in which a ransomware victims’ data was both encrypted and stolen with the threat of publication — became the norm for hackers, forcing organizations to go beyond simply having good backups as a defensive measure. “They’ve definitely matured in skills and are learning from past mistakes, learning from protections that’ve been recommended so they can continue to be successful," said Jen Miller-Osborn of Palo Alto's Unit 42 research division. Benjamin Freed has details.

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Broadband officials want to go their own way

Few state and local officials believe national telecommunications companies, despite their role in expanding emergency connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic, are capable of closing the digital divide, according to new research from the Broadband Equity Partnership consulting firm. A survey of economic development and IT agency officials, nonprofit leaders, school officials and utility company executives published by the firm last week found that less than 25% of 120 total respondents were confident that national ISPs can use future federal programs, like the FCC's new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, to close the gap. Ryan Johnston reports.

Feds detail foreign ops in election

The federal government released a pair of unclassified reports yesterday covering foreign governments' attempts to interfere with the 2020 election. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence campaigns aimed at boosting Donald Trump and attacking Joe Biden, while Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei “probably” directed an effort to undermine Trump. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities considered, but did not execute, influence operations of their own. Separately, DHS and the FBI released a joint report stating that while foreign influence efforts were highly active, there's "no evidence that any foreign government-affiliated actor manipulated election results or otherwise compromised the integrity." Read more on CyberScoop.

Global effort needed to fight ransomware

With ransomware actors coming off another big year, cybersecurity experts and former diplomats are in the early stages urging governments to work together to limit the damage hackers can do to organizations, and even take down malicious actors, CyberScoop's Shannon Vavra reports. “These actors have a sense to them of almost impunity,” says Philip Reiner, the chief executive officer of the Institute for Security and Technology, and the head of a new task force of companies and researchers aimed at fighting ransomware globally. Read more from Shannon.

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