By Steven J.J. Weisman, Esq.
Bentley University, Boston
Professor of Law
TALKERS, Legal Editor
The recent ransomware attack against radio group and media company Townsquare Media may have come as a surprise to some people. It shouldn’t have. Ransomware is a huge problem and media companies are increasingly becoming targeted by cybercriminals.
As you undoubtedly know, ransomware is a type of malware that once installed on your company’s computers locks and encrypts your files. The cybercriminals who use ransomware to attack your company then threaten to destroy your files unless you pay a ransom, generally in cryptocurrencies. More recently the threat of ransomware has evolved where the cybercriminals also threaten to make public embarrassing information gathered in the hacking of your computers.
Just how big a problem is ransomware? Worldwide 37,700 ransomware attacks occur every hour. Part of the reason for there being so many ransomware attacks is that they are perpetrated not only by sophisticated cybercriminals who develop the new strains of ransomware, but also by far less sophisticated criminals who go to the Dark Web, that portion of the internet where criminals buy and sell goods and services, and lease the latest versions of ransomware along with bots to serve as delivery systems for the ransomware. According to cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, in 2021, the financial impact of ransomware attacks in the United States was 623.7 million dollars. Also, don’t think if your company is a small to medium sized business that it won’t be targeted by ransomware attacks. Due to the easy availability of the sophisticated malware and delivery systems required for a ransomware attack, small and medium sized businesses are frequent targets of ransomware attacks.
Media companies are a common target for ransomware attacks with devastating consequences. In 2017, San Francisco NPR station KQED was hit with a damaging ransomware attack. In 2019, Entercom suffered a major ransomware attack. In 2021, Cox Media, which owns 57 radio and television stations, fell victim to a ransomware attack. Also in 2021, Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 185 television stations throughout the country suffered a ransomware attack which cost the company 63 million dollars in lost advertising revenue and 11 million dollars in expenses related to remedying the attack. And these are just a few of the many ransomware attacks against media companies big and small.