Christmas is already a financially stressful time for many Oklahomans. But what if you were unable to receive the paycheck you had worked so hard for before the holiday? Unfortunately, this is a reality that many businesses across the state face due to a ransomware attack on Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG), a company based in Lowell, Massachusetts, over the weekend.

Why Did the Ultimate Kronos Group Attack Affect Oklahoma?

While UKG provides payroll and HR management services for many different businesses nationwide, the effects are starting to make themselves known across the state of Oklahoma. Ascension St. John in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is one of these companies, using the Kronos Private Cloud for payroll and scheduling. To help their employees during this trying time, the St. John network is looking for alternative options to track work hours and complete payroll.

While Ascension St. John likely feels the effects, they have not commented on the matter. Although, the American Hospital Association has stressed that many hospital networks across the nation have a contingency plan to deal with ransomware attacks that might hinder their ability to pay employees. In addition to Ascension St. John, many other companies that operate throughout the state, including the YMCA, Tesla, and Whole Foods, were also affected by the attack.

How Else Has Ransomware Affected Oklahoma in 2021?

The most recent ransomware attack on UKG is hardly the first of the year to affect Oklahoma. In March 2021, a collective of hackers reportedly infiltrated Standley Systems in Chickasha, Oklahoma, with another prominent ransomware attack. CRN, a tech news website, initially reported the group REvil was able to obtain both Social Security numbers and other sensitive data.

Standley Systems provides IT infrastructure and managed services to a variety of high-profile clients in Oklahoma. The reportedly affected clients were Chaparral Energy, Ellis Clinic, the Oklahoma Medical Board, W&W Steel, and EverQuest. Fortunately, Standley Systems CEO Tim Elliot stressed that their expertise in dealing with ransomware helped them avoid paying anything, and no data was lost.

To help combat growing cyberthreats, Oklahoma lawmakers have pushed to make ransomware a felony under state law. This would inevitably allow local authorities the power to investigate cybercrimes when they occur and prosecute those responsible. According to Oklahoma Cyber Command, more than 3.8 trillion attacks have been carried out against state-owned computers that they protect. Of the average 61 million attacks daily, the organization can counteract them with anti-virus software and firewalls.

Oklahoma Falls Behind in Cybersecurity

In 2021, Rep. Trish Ranson, a Stillwater Democrat, filed House Bill 1759 to help modernize the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act. Governor Stitt approved this bill on May 28, 2021. Before the legislative session, she was informed that Oklahoma's malicious hacking laws were "light years" behind other states that face the same problems. In comparison, Texas lawmakers updated their laws to make ransomware a misdemeanor or felony in 2017.

To combat ransomware attacks at the state level, Oklahoma invested in new cybersecurity solutions with the launch of TX1, a facility in Texas that completes massive backups of the state's data. Not only does this ensure that data from state agencies is backed up securely, but it also helps limit the catastrophic effects that tornadoes and other natural disasters could present. While Oklahoma appears to be making steps in the right direction, the state's current cybersecurity level might not still match modern requirements. Until more drastic measures are taken, Oklahoma will continue to be a target for significant ransomware attacks.

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