Royal pain in the brain: The Royal Ransomware attack and the current state of cyber warfare

Pima Post

In our modern age of computer technologies, hacking and malicious software have become commonplace. 

Much like bacteria and viruses in real life, humans have developed suitable countermeasures over time. However, how do you quarantine a malicious virus that is being piloted by a person? 

That is the question I have asked since the Ransomware attack on the Tucson Unified School District that took place Jan. 30. According to KOLD News 13, TUSD consulted a professional after receiving a ransom letter on printers and copiers district-wide.

Based on the style, IT experts were able to determine the source code of the malicious software, Royal Ransomware, which belongs to a group previously known as DEV-0569. Similar to Anonymous, it is a loosely connected group of hackers who use their skills to attack large organizations by exploiting holes in a company network. The members then encrypt the data so that it is inaccessible to the host network. The calling card was the ransom letter. 

In contrast to Anonymous, Royal’s motive is monetary. The group has shown how little remorse it has by targeting public schools, healthcare institutions and other organizations whose networks lacked simple patches. It also markets itself as a legitimate cyber security company through the Royal software, which is known as malvertising.

Jack Satterfield is the chief technology officer at Pima Community College. 

“Security is a small world,” he said. “That news went out on other channels before the public got a hold of it.”

What he said shows the alertness of the cyber security community. 

“It’s an awakening,” Satterfield said. “For us in the security field, you can be hit at any moment and it’s only a matter of time.” 

This was a sobering thing to hear. 

So, when you know that being hit is inevitable, minimizing damage is the next step. 

“We try to detect it as quickly as possible and isolate it so that it doesn’t spread,” Satterfield said. “The next step would be recovery.”

Thankfully, there was reassurance. 

“They are smart enough to know the difference between a personal computer and a computer with access to a corporate network,” Satterfield said. “They don’t want to hack you.” 

Essentially, when it comes to malvertising, Royal generally does not target individuals. 

For those who are interested in defending themselves or others in the field of cybersecurity, PCC hosts classes through its Computer Information System (CIS) programs. 

In addition, there are more cyber security/Information Technology jobs needed in the modern era. So it is certainly a good choice if you’re looking to start a career after college.

For more information on programs and degrees, visit Computer Information Systems | Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona