How Corporate Ransomware Attacks Can Impact Consumers

High-profile cybercrime incidents are on the rise, affecting organizations of all types and gaining plenty of public attention. Most of these attacks take aim at big businesses and government entities that are obvious targets because of the financial reward they represent for criminals. A single ransomware incident can translate into a multi-million-dollar payout, and this tactic has become a lucrative pursuit for underground networks across the globe.

Large corporations are certainly in the crosshairs for constant attacks, but identity theft and other cyber scams present an ongoing danger to individual citizens as well. The various risks that you can expect as an average consumer are numerous and abundant, and we’ve highlighted many of these in previous posts. While more significant attacks and breaches involving businesses may not affect your credit score or be an outright attempt at stealing personal information, trickle-down effects exist that impact the average consumer in significant ways.

High Profile Attacks Lead to High Profile Problems

Two of the largest headline grabbing ransomware incidents of the summer were alarming because of the effect they had on their targets and how critical these businesses were to American infrastructure. The Colonial Pipeline cyberattack shut down one of the largest fuel supplies to the eastern United States for days, causing shortages and localized panic buying. JBS, one of the largest suppliers of meat in the world, was hit with a ransomware attack that crippled operations and disrupted a critical food supply.

These incidents resulted in hackers making off with millions of dollars in paid ransoms with federal intervention trying to remedy the situation. They also shut down key infrastructure needed by large portions of the population. While the intended outcome was securing a ransom, the consequences reached far beyond any corporate pocketbook. An interruption in public food and fuel supply ends up affecting everyday people in very direct ways. If you don’t have access to the gasoline that gets you to work or the nourishment that feeds the family, it doesn’t take a cyber-sleuth to figure out the consequences when that situation persists for any extended length of time.

Impact Extends Beyond Infrastructure

While significant attacks on essential infrastructure organizations have an apparent effect on the public, many small cybercrime events can also impact the day-to-day life of the average citizen. Cybercrime continues to be a persistent threat that will remain steady and active. Experts and industry insiders foreshadowed this constant barrage of attacks on businesses. In comparison, the extent to which everyday people have been affected was not as anticipated – but the results are glaring and abundant.

Ransomware attacks on healthcare providers and hospitals represent one alarming way a regular person can be severely impacted by a corporate ransomware situation. In late 2020, there was a noticeable increase in cyberattacks on hospitals. Several of these incidents shut down computer systems, directly leading to complications with patient treatment and interruptions in surgeries and other critical care. United Health Services had issues at nearly all of its 400 locations in the US. The University of Vermont Health Network dealt with an attack that afflicted six hospitals in the Northeast and resulted in the hospital losing medical record access for a month.

The criminal intent behind these and other healthcare-related attacks remains financial, but the outcomes inherently affect individual patients. Not only are healthcare records and additional personal information compromised during the data breach associated with a ransomware incident, but mortal consequences are possible as well. In Germany, a women died as she was being transferred to an different hospital because a cyberattack shut down operations at her previous treatment location. Other hospitals have had to delay and reschedule everything from cancer treatments to standard appointments. When a serious health issue arises, these lost minutes, hours, and days can very literally be the difference between life and death.

Other corporate sectors are in the crosshairs as well, with various industries experiencing increases in cybercrime incidents. If the attacks on hospitals and health care mentioned above did not already indicate, these criminals do not have boundaries on who or what they will target. School districts in Miami and Baltimore have seen ransomware attacks that shut down computer systems, limiting student access and even forcing canceled classes. Public transportation systems have also been targeted, resulting in widespread data theft and interruptions in the service people rely on for work and other essential purposes. Pick an industry, and you’re surely find an incident that affects many more people than those directly associated with the business in question. The dark web is expanding to entangle many elements of everyday life.

How You Can Limit Risk

Unfortunately, there is no way for you as an individual to prevent a large-scale ransomware attack from happening. It is also essentially impossible to avoid the problems that can appear when these incidents occur. Whether it be stolen data, fuel shortages, or interruptions in hospital care, the potential risks are very real. With ransomware incidents on the rise, there are sure to be a growing number of ways these incidents affect us all.

But, there are a few steps that you can take to limit the extent to which these corporate attacks affect you personally. Having protective measures in place to deal with potential identity theft fallout is a solid starting point. This can limit the risk of possible financial loss and provide you with support to navigate through the situation. You should also never trust that your personal information is entirely safe in the hands of a business or corporation. Realizing that even the most secure networks are never entirely safe can give you better awareness of the risks that exist in our digital world. You certainly are not able to prevent the next big ransomware attack on a critical infrastructure system, but with a bit of planning and accountability, you can keep yourself and your loved ones to be better prepared for such incidents.

LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.

*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.