PTI services disrupted after massive ransomware attack on servers

PTI New Delhi | Updated on October 25, 2020

The Press Trust of India’s computer servers suffered a massive ransomware attack, disrupting operations and the delivery of news to hundreds of subscribers across India for several hours, before they were restored after an all-night effort by engineers, a company spokesperson said on Sunday.

The attack by the ransomware, which identified itself as LockBit, occurred around 10 PM on Saturday, infecting almost all the servers of India’s premier news agency. The virus encrypted all data and applications, forcing the stoppage of news delivery to PTI subscribers. The ransomware, through a computer screen message, demanded ransom to provide a key to decrypt it.

The origin of the virus is not known, and it was not clear if it was a malicious and deliberate attack, or a random attack. Ransomware is a virus that is known so because it holds the victim hostage by demanding a ransom in return for allowing the encrypted data to be freed.

The spokesperson said PTI’s IT engineers worked through the night to restore services in a phased manner and almost all operations were back to normal by 9 AM on Sunday. No ransom was paid.

Increasing ransomware attacks

According to a recent survey commissioned by cybersecurity solutions firm Sophos, ransomware attacks have increased worldwide over the years, with 82 per cent of Indian companies surveyed saying they were hit by such attacks between January and June this year.

It said only 8 per cent of victims were able to stop the attack before their data could be encrypted, compared with a global average of 24 per cent. Only about one-third of Indian respondents could recover the encrypted data from back-ups without having to pay a ransom, while a whopping 66 per cent said they paid to get the data freed.

The survey said that unlike in the past, when the attacks were random and generalised, now they seem to be targeting specific companies from whom they hope to get lucrative ransoms. The worldwide survey by Sophos interviewed 5,000 IT managers in over 26 countries including 300 in India.

Published on October 25, 2020

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