US multinational Equinix, the largest data centre provider in the world, has disclosed that it has been targeted by a ransomware incident. While the company has announced that its internal systems were hit, it has confirmed that its dedicated data centres were not impacted.

Ransomware has seen a sharp rise in 2020, with many enterprises of different sizes targeted by threat operators from international technology corporations to small scale healthcare clinics. The California headquartered company, Equinix now joins the list of other businesses that have become victims of these single-minded attacks that attempt to extort ransom amounts in return for reclaiming lost or stolen data.

Incident disclosure and actions taken

In a brief statement posted on its company website, the leading provider of data collocation on demand disclosed details of the security breach it had suffered. The post explained how it had discovered the malicious software within its own internal systems but added that the main core of its dedicated customer-facing data services, were unimpaired by the infiltration.

The company commented:

“Our data centres and our service offerings, including managed services, remain fully operational, and the incident has not affected our ability to support our customers. Note that as most customers operate their own equipment within Equinix data centres, this incident has had no impact on their operations or the data on their equipment at Equinix.”

While exact details on the ransomware incident are currently unavailable, there is no evidence that the data centre provider is attempting to downplay the attack. There have been no suggestions of major service outages experienced, nor torrents of user complaints surfacing on social media channels. Equinix has stated, however, that a continuing investigation into the ransomware attack has been launched.

Attacks on data centres and web hosting services

Equinix is currently listed on NASDAQ (New York’s stock exchange) under the name EQIX and has a workforce of about 8,000. Previously this year, the data centre specialist entered a new agreement where it bought a portfolio from BCE Inc., (Formerly known as Bell Canada Enterprises Inc.) that included 13 different data sites across 25 individual Canada-based data centres. The value of the deal was estimated to be around $750m (£575m).

Equinix is not the only data centre and web hosting provider to have been hit by an insidious ransomware attack. Other firms struck by these incidents include, CyrusOne, SmarterASP.NET, A2 Hosting, Internet Nayana and US multinational Cognizant, who estimated they stood to lose between $50-70m (£38-53m) following an attack by Maze ransomware operators.

Enterprises operating in this field make attractive targets for cybercriminals, in particular hacker gangs that specialise in ransomware tactics. Companies that deliver such offerings can be instantaneously impacted by these malicious strategies, with services suspended causing disruptions to business processes, leading to unhappy clients and customers who are expecting smooth operations without significant downtime. Under pressure to resume normal operations as soon as possible, web hosting and data centre providers may be more likely to give in and pay requested ransoms quickly.