A series of police departments across the United States have been attacked by a virus that infected many computers, thus blocking access to all documents and programs.
On Monday, April 13, Chief Joe McKenna form the Houlton Police announced that the computers in his department have been affected by a virus commonly known as “ransomware”. Unfortunately the virus also breached police department systems from Lincoln County, Boothbay Harbor, Damariscotta, Wiscasset and Waldoboro.
This virus is a type of malware sent through email attachments. Once opened, the virus encrypts files until a ransom is paid. Then the hackers send a decryption code that enables the user to once again access the blocked documents and programs. If the ransom is not paid within the set timeframe, the value asked in exchange for unblocking the data grows exponentially.
In Houlton’s case, the fee was set at about $588. The payment had to be made in bitcoins, an online currency that is hard to trace. However, McKenna stated that the total sum spend on retrieving the data was close to $1,400 as they needed to pay specialists to analyze the matter.
The Chief of the Houlton Police Department admitted to being guilty of having started the whole virus infection as he was the one who unintentionally opened the attachment containing the malware.
He explained that he had been receiving quotes in regards to various pieces of equipment they were replacing. One of the emails he received had a lady’s name written at the recipient with the subject “your quote is attached”. As he thought it was about the equipment, he opened the attachment which was apparently empty.
He though someone made a mistake, but didn’t put much thought into it and shut down the computer. The empty attachment was actually the virus which affected the computer. McKenna explained:
“It locked up all of our computers. Everything from emails, to all of our photos and word documents and reports.”
Luckily the virus spread only among the computers at the police department. Tech specialists were called to find a solution but unfortunately the only way to retrieve the data was to pay the ransom.
According to McKenna, better protocols will be implemented in order to avoid such attacks from taking place in the future.
Image Source: NDTV