An unknown set of hackers encrypted a Massachusetts police department database, containing possibly sensitive information as the authorities themselves paid a smooth $500 to the hackers in the anonymous cryptocurrency BitCoin, to unlock and decrypt their database.
Just around two months ago, we saw hackers encrypt the Midlothian, Illinois police department database, forcing the department to pay the hackers ransom of $500. Two months later another set of hackers have now encrypted a Massachusetts police department database, making for a second appearance where the authorities comply and pay the criminals fees.
An unknown set of hackers gained access to a Massachusetts police department network, where the hacker was able to infect and encrypt the entire departments database with CryptoLocker ransomware. A piece of malware that encrypt computers or servers and demands a large sum of money for the decryption of your files. The issue with paying the ransom is it’s unknown if the hacker will turn over the keys and restore access back to the database.
The Massachusetts department made a risky move complying with hackers, gambling $500 and their database, hoping the hacker would comply and release the decryption code.
The intrusion on the database left all files, including backups, useless, as they were locked and encrypted without the decryption code.
“It basically rendered us in-operational, with respect to the software we use to run the police department,” Tewksbury Police Chief Timothy Sheehan said speaking with Tewksbury Town Crier. “It made you feel that you lost control of everything.”
Tewksbury said the department spent countless days working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Homeland Security, Massachusetts State Police alongside two digital forensic and security firms to try and regain access to the encrypted database without paying the ransom.
After countless fails to restore, rollback or restore any information, officials opted to pay the ransom, noting their future cybersecurity measures with thwart such attacks in the future.
When the department opted to pay the hackers ransom, police had to buy $500 in the anonymous cryptocurrency, bitcoin.
The department did not specify how hackers gained access to their database, but attackers generally gain access to federal intuitions through a series of spear phishing attacks and malware-laden emails. Hackers gain access through the employee’s machine and can further harvest credentials and gain access to other systems on the network.
Though the fee was a smaller $500, the attack appeared to be aimed at the police database, not taking over any internal computer systems, just pinpointing where sensitive information was stored.
Just last year Detroit and Tennessee police departments were hit by hackers who also encrypted their department database demanding a ransom fee, which one department opted to pay. The Tennessee sheriff’s office paid a total of $572 in bitcoin to a hacker called Nimrod Gruber. Detroit officials opted not to pay the absurd ransom requesting $800,000 from the hackers, and chose to instead wipe the database clean and start with a new system with upgraded security measures.
Reports regarding if the attacks are connected has yet to be confirmed, but the hackers continue to use the same malware and request the same sum of $500 from the authorities.
Only the future will tell if the FBI and DHS can stop the ransomware from plaguing other U.S. police departments.