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Rising Tide of Ransomware and Waves of COVID-19

In January, the Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie Data Protection and CybersecurityTeam warned of evolving cybersecurity threats, including a significant re-emergence of ransomware—malicious software that locks or alters computer data and demands a ransom payment to unlock or restore the data. In particular, Maze ransomware was highlighted as a troubling new “double threat,” which not only locks or alters the target data but also exfiltrates it, thus allowing the hackers to threaten publication of the data, identity theft, or other harms beyond the initial breach.

Since January, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the global economy, leading to even greater cybersecurity threats as more and more people are connecting remotely. Indeed, the FBI has reported a 300% increase in the number of daily complaints submitted to its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) during the pandemic. Security researchers have similarly reported a 600% increase in spear-phishing attacks, many of which relate specifically to COVID-19 (see also

In addition, several high-profile targets have suffered security incidents during this period, including Bank of America, Cognizant (one of the world’s largest IT services firms) and Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks (an entertainment law firm that had data relating to Lady Gaga and President Trump, among others). Both Cognizant and Grubman Shire suffered ransomware attacks, with the former tied to the Maze hackers or related cybercriminals and the latter credited to REvil, a similar ransomware gang, which apparently demanded a $42-million ransom from the law firm.

These attacks are part of the same worrying trend that we discussed in January, which has continued to grow exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, and in light of possible second or third waves of COVID-19 that could extend remote-working arrangements, businesses should continue to work with their cybersecurity professionals, insurance providers, and legal counsel to review existing policies and practices and update them as necessary, not only to avoid possible data breaches but also to prepare for the aftermath if one were to occur. With regard to post-breach strategies, for example, many businesses continue to take a hard line in refusing to negotiate with hackers, but alternative strategies should be considered, as the hackers have demonstrated the ability and willingness to carry out their threats.

Our Data Protection and Cybersecurity Team has significant experience addressing the technical and legal challenges facing businesses and government agencies across the digital landscape, and we are happy to work with your legal, information, and security personnel to develop policies, procedures, and strategies to fit your needs. If you have any questions regarding these issues or other matters pertaining to data security or privacy, please contact any of our team members or visit

This material has been prepared by Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Specific issues dealing with COVID-19 are fluid and this alert is intended to provide information as it is currently available. Readers should not act upon any information without seeking professional legal advice. Any communication you may have with a Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP attorney, through this announcement or otherwise, should not be understood by you to be attorney-client communication unless and until you and the firm agree to enter into an attorney-client relationship.

Tags: Data Privacy and Cybersecurity
  • John C. Gray, CIPP/US
    Of Counsel

    John Gray is Of Counsel in Lewis Roca’s Litigation Practice Group and leads the firm’s Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Group.  He is also a member of the firm’s AI Task Force.

    As a litigator, John has more than a decade of experience in Arizona, California, and other forums across the ...

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