Massachusetts police duped by hackers, pay $750 in ransom
Not even police were immune from Russian hackers' “Cryptolocker” malware.
In October, the hackers locked up computers holding investigative materials, administrative documents and seven years' worth of digital mug shots belonging to the police department in Swansea, a small town in southern Massachusetts, according to a federal complaint unsealed on Monday.
Swansea police found themselves facing a stark choice: risk losing the information forever or pay the hackers' ransom of $750 — payable in electronic bitcoins.
The Swansea police computers were among about 230,000 infected computers worldwide held hostage, including 120,000 in the United States, federal officials said.
With the clock ticking down on a 72-hour deadline, Swansea officials gave in and paid up, Lt. Gregory Ryan told the Tribune-Review. To their surprise, they received the electronic code key to unlock the system.
But police worried the hackers might come back. Swansea started using computers in 1994, and many of the 40 sworn officers and civilians on the force remembered doing everything on paper, he said.
So the entire department went offline while Swansea police improved their computer security. Ryan declined to talk about the changes and referred follow-up questions to the Justice Department.
“You can't make yourself 100 percent foolproof,” Ryan said, “but you just want to make sure your pants don't fall down around your ankles.”
Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7835 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Andrew Conte to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Identical twins born at West Penn Hospital a rare medical marvel
- Rossi: At start, are Pens already finished?
- Pittsburgh Public evacuates 3 schools after voicemail threat
- Steelers’ Roethlisberger still hurting after hard hit from Ravens’ Upshaw
- Pennsylvania senator wants to arm school teachers, employees
- City of Pittsburgh detective, 2 boys finalize adoption before judge
- Steelers notebook: RT Gilbert not in danger of losing his job
- Shoop’s preparation, expertise trickles down to Penn State defense
- Priest on leave as feds probe Somerset County church
- Morton, Pirates blank Red Sox in series opener
- Pennsylvania fiscal officers say budget in dire situation