“Ransomware” is taking computer network hacking to an all new level, in which no one is immune to its clutches – even the police.
According to The Boston Globe, victims of “ransomware” have to do just what it implies – pay a ransom. Which is exactly what Tewksbury Police Department had to do when hackers encrypted its computer data. Not even the experts from the FBI or special law enforcement offices trained in Internet crime were able to unscramble the corrupted files.
Initially, users think the problem is just a network issue and more of an annoyance than anything. Then somewhere along the process of trying to resolve the issue, a message pops up. It reads, “Your personal files are encrypted. File decryption costs – $500.”
The “ransom” note even warns you by adding, “If you really value your data, then we suggest you do not waste valuable time searching for other solutions because they do not exist.”
The Boston Globe reported that the Tewksbury Police Department has joined an extensive list of other law enforcement agencies that have been victimized by “ransomware.” The Internet crime is crippling computers across the globe.
Tewksbury was attacked on December 8, 2014. The town of Swansea had their police department hit in November 2013 and paid a $750 ransom. The Midlothian Police Department located outside of Chicago paid $500 in January.
However, Police Chief Dave Kurz said that the Durham Police Department did not pay a threatened ransom because it had backed up the encrypted information and was able to work around the corrupted database.
Another small police force in Alabama also chose not to pay when it was hit last June. They never got their mug shot database back, but refused to give in to the hackers.
“There was no way we were going to succumb to what felt like terrorist threats,” said Collinsville Police Chief Gary Bowen.
According to Diana Dolliver, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama, the evil genius of ransomware is that victims are far more likely to pay small amounts to recover crucial data. If enough people pay the ransoms, the total money collected can be considerable. “It’s the old idea that if a million people give a dollar, you have a million dollars,” she said.