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Bitcoin Ransomware Cripples Boston Legal System for Two Weeks

Last Updated March 4, 2021 3:20 PM
P. H. Madore
Last Updated March 4, 2021 3:20 PM

Boston public defenders suffered a ransomware attack some weeks back but have chosen not to send the bitcoin demanded by the attacker. Instead, they decided to use back-ups to restore services. The Committee oversees public defenders in Boston.

Public Defenders Take the Long Way Home

According to the Boston Globe , that decision has meant a “weekslong slowdown” that affects everyone in the system. Private attorneys tapped to work for indigent clients receive a small fee from the government. The ransomware attack has also interrupted those payments and locked up the organization’s essential digital services, including e-mail.

As a security measure, they’ve taken their systems offline in order to cleanse them of viruses.

A note on the Committee’s website reads :

“CPCS’s computer systems have been attacked and are not working properly. We are still representing clients. In addition, there is no evidence that confidential information from clients has been released as a result of these attacks.”

The attack took place on February 27th. Believing paying the bitcoin ransom to be a waste of money, they opted to restore the systems manually. Now two weeks have passed, and the entire justice system in Boston is feeling the effects. The agency cannot say how much longer it will be until they’re back online. In the meantime, people who work there have no e-mail, and the website is mostly non-functioning.

Courts have had to postpone court cases as well, the Globe mentions.

Bitcoin Ransomware is So 2015

Ransomware first came to the public mind in 2015. Attacks targeted various police agencies, and many paid up. Public infrastructure is a regular target of ransomware developers because it is often an essential service, and the likelihood that the victims will pay up is higher.

Everyday people may or may not pay. So much of our digital lives are in the cloud these days that a good percentage of attacked personal computers are essentially replaceable for the less than the cost of the ransom.

The public defenders have not said how much of a ransom the attackers demanded. It varies based on the attacker and the ransomware software used. The cost to unlock a computer can be anywhere from $100 to many thousands of dollars. Attackers occasionally deploy ransomware campaigns via malvertising, but usually target victims individually.

A pair of Dutch hackers were sentenced to community service last year for their role in attacking more than 1,000 computer systems and garnering over $11,000. Ransomware as an industry allegedly earned more than $25 million in two years, a large portion of which was cashed out via defunct crypto exchange BTC-e. BTC-e was later shut down and its alleged administrator arrested on money laundering charges.