GEO Group, a US-based company that operates private prisons and detention centers for illegal immigrants across the country, said it was the victim of a ransomware attack during the summer. Hackers got their hands on the personal data and health information of several inmates, residents, and staff members at the Florida South Bay Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility, a youth facility in Pennsylvania, and a now-closed California facility. The company said it managed to recover the data but didn’t specify whether they caved to the cybercriminals’ demands or resorted to backups.
Although the attack only targeted a small part of the GEO Group network, which features operations in the US, UK, Australia, and South Africa, it may have exposed sensitive information. That includes names, addresses, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, employee ID numbers, medical treatment information, and more. The company played down the ransomware attack and its impact in a form it filed to the US Securities Exchange Commission on Tuesday. It added that the incident wouldn’t affect business, operations, or finances.
“GEO implemented several containment and remediation measures to address the incident, restore its systems and reinforce the security of its networks and information technology systems,” GEO Group said. It also sent notification letters to all individuals who were affected by the breach. After disclosing the ransomware attack, GEO Group’s stock price suffered a 14% drop from $9.76 on Tuesday to $8.38 the next day.
Ransomware attacks have dramatically increased in 2020, with cybercriminals taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. They usually send phishing emails posing as legitimate entities to trick users into opening malicious links, files, or documents. When the victim clicks the infected attachment, malware infiltrates its device and encrypts its files and data. And the only way to retrieve them is by paying the hackers a ransom for the decryption key. According to a recent study by cybersecurity firm Cynet, most phishing campaigns are coronavirus-related.
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