The hacker demanded approximately $300 in bitcoins to release police records.
One imagines a police station to be a bit more secure than the average place of business, but a recent episode demonstrates that when it comes to computer networks, at least, the police are just as vulnerable as the rest of us. A raft of recent cyber attacks have left several Maine police departments scrambling, even forcing them to pay a ransom in bitcoin.
The Associated Press reports that computers at the Lincoln County sheriff’s office were infiltrated by a type of virus called “ransomware,” which locked up the computer system and held police records hostage. The system likely became infected when someone on the network accidentally downloaded the “megacode.” To make matters worse, because four towns and the county use an intranet to share files and records, the virus spread, encrypting all the records on the special network.
A hacker claiming to be the code’s creator demanded roughly $300 in bitcoins to release the files. Once payment was received, he delivered a special code that allowed the police departments to unencrypt and restore the files.
While no one liked succumbing to a ransom demand, “we needed our programs to get back online,” Damariscotta Police Chief Ron Young told WSCH 6 Portland. “That was a choice we all discussed and took to get back on line to get our information.”
The FBI was able to track the bitcoin payment to a Swiss bank account, but there the trail went cold. These types of attacks are becoming increasingly coming, with the perpetrators often residing in Russia. And it provides another reminder to never click on suspicious links in a email or download suspicious attachments.