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Ransomware onslaught: bolstering physical security systems against devastating cyberattacks

Ransomware onslaught: bolstering physical security systems against devastating cyberattacks
Ransomware was voted the top threat category for 2021, with attacks increasing 140 percent in the third quarter of 2021 alone.
Ransomware attacks continue to rise around the world. Businesses across industries are dealing with the financial and reputational damage caused by these criminal cyber actions. According to Panda Security, ransomware was voted the top threat category for 2021, with attacks increasing 140 percent in the third quarter of 2021 alone.
Physical security systems are becoming appealing targets for hackers, especially because of their vital role in maintaining security and the potential for substantial disruption. This article digs into these systems' vulnerability to ransomware attacks, evaluates previous high-profile occurrences, and offers suggestions on how customers may protect themselves. 

The vulnerability of video surveillance and access control systems

Physical security devices, such as video surveillance cameras and access control systems, are frequently connected to networks, making them vulnerable to ransomware assaults. Attackers can use many sorts of ransomware, such as encryption-based attacks, in which they encrypt the device's data and demand a ransom for the decryption key, and locker-based attacks, in which the device's functionality is locked until the ransom is paid.
Through a variety of entry points, ransomware can infiltrate video surveillance and access control systems. For example, attackers could take advantage of software flaws, insecure remote access, or phishing emails sent to personnel with access to these systems. A successful ransomware attack on physical security equipment can have disastrous effects, potentially resulting in the loss of crucial data, huge financial expenses, and even physical security breaches.

Ransomware incidents targeting physical security

A cyberattack in January 2017 infected 70 percent of Washington DC's police surveillance cameras with ransomware, impacting 123 of 187 video surveillance equipment just eight days before President Donald Trump's inauguration. The attack, which targeted devices that stored recorded data, required the equipment to be rebooted in order to remove the malware. As a result, the system was down and unable to record anything between January 12 and January 15. The investigation indicated that two ransomware variations were utilized, with extortion rather than getting access to the city's security system being the major motivation.
More recently, a ransomware attack perpetrated by the Russia-linked ALPHV gang targeted Amazon-owned home security and smart home business Ring. Although the specifics of the stolen data and the ransom amount are unknown, the potential consequences for Ring customers, such as compromised recorded footage or personal information, came under the radar.

Best Practices to protect against ransomware attacks

To secure their video surveillance and access control systems from ransomware attacks, industry experts can use the following best practices:
  1. Software updates and patch management

Ensure that all devices and software are kept up to date with the most recent security fixes. Regular upgrades can aid in the closure of vulnerabilities that fraudsters may exploit to obtain access to systems.
  1. Critical system isolation with network segmentation

To mitigate the potential damage from a ransomware attack, segment networks and isolate key systems. This strategy can help prevent ransomware from spreading across the organization's network and protect sensitive data from being compromised.
  1. Multi-factor authentication and strong password policies

For remote access to video surveillance and access control systems, implement strong password regulations and enforce multi-factor authentication. These safeguards can help prevent unauthorized system access and lower the risk of successful ransomware attacks.
  1. Programs for employee training and awareness

Create extensive training and awareness campaigns to educate staff about the risks of ransomware attacks and the need of following cybersecurity best practices. Regular training can assist employees in recognizing and reporting phishing emails, which are a common entrance point for ransomware.

Recovery and response

Prepare for ransomware events to reduce their impact on video surveillance and access control systems. When developing incident response and recovery strategies, organizations should consider the following steps:
  1. Creating an incident response strategy

Create a detailed incident response plan including each team member's duties and responsibilities, communication methods, and steps to be done in the case of a ransomware attack. This plan should be evaluated and revised on a regular basis to ensure its efficacy.
  1. What to do in the event of a ransomware attack

In the event of a ransomware attack, organizations should quickly isolate the compromised systems to prevent the infection from spreading, notify relevant stakeholders, and engage cybersecurity specialists to help with the investigation and remediation process.
  1. To pay or not to pay

Organizations must carefully balance the costs of disruption, data loss, and potential reputational harm when deciding whether or not to pay the ransom. This should be decided on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual circumstances and probable implications of the attack.
  1. Post-incident analysis and improvement

Following a ransomware attack, it is critical to conduct a thorough post-incident analysis to determine the root cause, assess the effectiveness of the incident response plan, and implement security improvements to prevent future attacks.


Protecting video surveillance and access control systems against ransomware attacks requires proactive cybersecurity measures. As these risks grow, industry professionals must stay up to date on the latest developments and engage with stakeholders to build effective strategies for protecting their systems. Organizations may reduce the risk of costly and disruptive attacks on their physical security systems by implementing strong cybersecurity procedures and planning for future ransomware occurrences.
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