Garmin has been forced to shut down its call centres, website and some other online services after a ransomware attack encrypted the smartwatch maker’s internal network and some production systems.
The US company shut down services including the official Garmin website and all customer services, including phone lines, online chat and email.
The attack had a significant impact on Garmin watch owners as it also shut down the Garmin Connect service, which they rely on to synchronise their sporting activities, such as running, swimming and cycling, with a smartphone app to monitor performance.
In messages on its website and shared on Twitter, the company apologised to users and explained the extent of the shutdown.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is the most common form of criminal malware currently in use. Targets are commonly infected through malicious emails, which may trick them into downloading and running the software, or through exploiting vulnerabilities in other software such as Adobe Flash. When the ransomware program is activated, it encrypts the user’s hard drive with a single use encryption key, before flashing up a message asking for ransom, typically in the form of a payment in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
Usually, although not always, paying the ransom really does restore access to the encrypted files, which means that many businesses and organisations have found themselves funding the criminal outfits that launch ransomware attacks. Even organisations that regularly back up their data have been known to pay the ransom, since the time required to fully restore a large and complicated network from a back-up can be many days, during which no business can be done.
WannaCry, one of the most famous pieces of ransomware, managed to freeze much of the NHS in May 2017. The malware made use of a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Windows operating system to spread automatically between computers, allowing it to rapidly traverse the globe. The attack was launched by a cybercrime group dubbed Lazarus by researchers, which is believed to be a state-backed outfit run by the North Korean government.
Most ransomware attacks are very different from WannaCry, involving highly targeted infections of big targets who are likely to pay a high ransom to receive their data back in good time.
“We are currently experiencing an outage that affects Garmin.com and Garmin Connect,” the company said. “This outage also affects our call centres and we are currently unable to receive any calls, emails or online chats. We are working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and apologise for this inconvenience.”
It is not yet known if the attack involved any customer data being lost or stolen.
The attack also affected Garmin’s aviation database services, flyGarmin, which supports aviation navigational equipment, and some production lines in Asia, according to ZDnet.com.
Pilots told the tech website that they had not been able to download new Garmin software with up-to-date versions of the aviation database, which is a legal requirement for flying. The Garmin Pilot app, which is used to schedule and plan flights, was also hit by the attack.
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The company has not officially said it was a ransomware attack. However company employees writing on social media after the incident all described it as such.
The Taiwanese tech news site iThome published an internal memo from Garmin’s IT staff to its Taiwan factories announcing two days of maintenance on Friday and Saturday, which sources told the website was caused by a “virus”.
Earlier this year, the foreign currency firm Travelex was attacked by ransomware hackers who threatened to release customers’ personal data, including dates of birth and payment card information, into the public domain unless the company paid a $3m (£2.4m) ransom.
Source: The Guardian