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Cyberattacks on governments and public services were way up this spring, research shows

Cyberattacks on governments and public entities worldwide surged by 40% from March to May compared to the previous quarter, according to researchers at the cybersecurity firm BlackBerry.

During this period, researchers identified more than 55,000 attacks carried out by nation-state and financially motivated hackers.

Government entities in North America, Australia, South Korea, and Japan were the most heavily targeted.

Public sector organizations are attractive targets for hackers whose motivations may be geopolitical, financial, or merely disruption, the report said.

In the U.S., the numbers were driven by incidents involving city and state government systems, including the city of Oakland, Dallas, Texas and Georgia.

In Europe, Poland was a popular target, especially among Russia-linked hackers. In March, for example, Poland’s tax service website was hit by a cyberattack believed to have been carried out by the pro-Russian hacker group NoName057(16).

Threat actors mostly used inexpensive and easily accessible commodity malware against government targets, including RedLine, Emotet, and RaccoonStealer.

In addition to government services, the healthcare sector remains one of the most consistently targeted industries by hackers.

The most notable cyberattacks against healthcare facilities, according to BlackBerry, include the attack on a Spanish hospital in Barcelona, a Mumbai-based pharmaceutical manufacturer, and a Pennsylvania-based health network.

“Because healthcare organizations typically hold sensitive data and provide critical services, the number of attacks against this industry is likely to rise,” the researchers said.

Another popular target, financial services, faces persistent threats from smartphone-centric commodity malware, ransomware attacks, and mobile banking malware targeting the growing digital banking industry.

From March to May, BlackBerry identified more than 17,000 attacks directed at financial institutions, and nearly 15,000 of them targeted organizations in the U.S. In total, cybercriminals launched about 11.5 attacks per minute from March to May, including roughly 1.7 new malware samples per minute, according to BlackBerry’s analysis. This was a 13% increase from the previous quarter.

This increase indicates that attackers are diversifying their tools to bypass defenses, the researchers said.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk

is a reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.