The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released a private industry notification (PIN) warning local governments and government services that ransomware will likely “strain” their capabilities if not prevented.

According to the PIN, ransomware attacks against local entities are especially significant due to the critical services they deliver, making them attractive targets for cybercriminals. In 2021, local government entities were the second-most targeted group behind academia.

“In the next year, local U.S. government agencies almost certainly will continue to experience ransomware attacks, particularly as malware deployment and targeting tactics evolve, further endangering public health and safety, and resulting in significant financial liabilities,” the FBI wrote.

The FBI stressed several recommendations local government entities should heed when facing ransomware attacks. The first is not to pay ransomware demands because the payment doesn’t guarantee files will be recovered, and in fact, may further embolden hackers.

However, if a local entity decides to pay the ransom, “the FBI urges you to report ransomware incidents as soon as possible to your local FBI field office,” the PIN notes.

“Doing so provides the FBI with critical information needed to prevent future attacks by identifying and tracking ransomware attackers and holding them accountable under US law, when possible,” the notice added.

The FBI also encourages local government agencies to proactively initiate contingency planning – to the degree possible – for operational continuity in the event of a ransomware attack and systems being inaccessible. This includes:

  • re-routing emergency communications of local dispatch centers;
  • alternative communication mechanisms for residents and personnel; or
  • alternative methods to conduct administrative services.

“The FBI has an opportunity to disrupt some of this activity by leveraging partnerships with domestic and foreign governments, as well as the private sector, to more effectively identify actors, finances, and infrastructure,” the statement said.

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