The police department in Midlothian, a town outside Chicago, Illinois, was reportedly hit last month with a form of the Cryptoware virus.
The virus encrypted critical files, rendering them inaccessible. It demanded a ransom of $500, payable in bitcoins, to unlock the files.
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Faced with a difficult decision and aware that they will probably be unable to apprehend the hacker, the department reluctantly acceded to the demands. According to records, the invoice for the payment was labelled as “MPD virus” by the town.
The Dickson County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee was faced with a similar decision three months ago. 72,000 files were locked by CryptoWall, also for a ransom of $500, paid in bitcoins. The files comprised of autopsy reports, witness statements and crime scene photographs–“every sort of document that you could develop in an investigation was in that folder.” The agency’s IT director said that the office had no choice and paid up.
Fred Hayes, president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, commented that quite a few people have been hit by such attacks. He said the best advice is for departments to back up their data. In this particular case, however, the backups were also infected. Intuitively, a scheme that stores back up files in a location not easily accessed by the virus should be sought.