Bitcoin Ransomware Hits Sheriff’s Office

Journalist:
Giulio Prisco @giulioprisco
November 17, 2014

Dickson County Sheriff’s Office said they had to pay a ransom – $500 in Bitcoin – to regain access to thousands of their case files which has been encrypted by a computer virus, News Channel 5 Network reports.

IT Director Detective Jeff McCliss said:

“Every sort of document that you could develop in an investigation was in that folder. There was a total of 72,000 files.”

The computer virus, Cryptowall, is a variant of the infamous CryptoLocker. In August, PC World reported that CryptoWall infected over 600,000 computer systems in the past six months and held 5 billion files hostage, earning its creators more than $1 million. The Counter Threat Unit (CTU) at Dell SecureWorks performed an extensive analysis of CryptoWall and concluded that CryptoWall is the largest and most destructive ransomware threat on the Internet at the moment and will likely continue to grow.

McCliss also said:

“Is it better to take a stand and lose all that information? Or make the payment grit your teeth and just do it? It made me sick to have to do that.”

Indeed, it seems likely that whatever other means to recover access to the encrypted files would cost much more than $500.

The Surge of Ransomware is Likely Due to Bitcoin

Last month, the computer systems of tens of local administrations in Italy were attacked by another CryptoLocker-derived ransomware computer virus that encrypted stored files and requested payment in Bitcoin for the decryption keys. The administration officers paid the ransom of 400 Euros.

Ransomware attacks have spiked more than 1000% in the past two and a half years. This is likely due to the availability of Bitcoin, which (if appropriate privacy and security measures are taken) offers to the criminal a safe way to receive the payment, which used to be the weak link in the chain.

What do you think of this and similar episodes of randomware? Comment below!

Images from Shutterstock.

Giulio Prisco @giulioprisco

Science writer, software developer, Bitcoin/crypto enthusiast.