NASCAR Crew Pays Bitcoin To Recover Files;

Journalist:
June 27, 2016

A professional NASCAR racing team had its computer files hacked and paid $500 in bitcoin to get their files back, according to ESPN. They estimated the value of the data at $2 million. They have since hired a security firm called Malwarebytes, which has become a race car sponsor.

David Winston, crew chief for the Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing team, a NASCAR team, had no setup notes for a race in Texas after his computer was hacked and the hacker demanded $500 in bitcoin in 24 hours exchange for a “key” to unlock the files. Winston had not backed up his files on another machine. They went to a bitcoin ATM in the Charlotte, N.C. area to buy the bitcoin and send it to the hacker.

All the team’s computers were infected by a TeslaCrypt ransomware, according to the team’s website.

Critical Data Held Captive

The data contained information the team needed to ensure the race cars performed at proper levels, custom-high profile simulation setups, and car part lists.

The team was able to retrieve the files within 24 hours.

Jeremy Lange, team vice president, said had the team been at a race track when the hack occurred, he doesn’t think they would have been able to get the bitcoin in time since bitcoin ATMs are hard to find near race tracks. He said it is possible to buy bitcoin online, but the processing would take two or three days.

Lange said the team realized there was an issue with the files when they began to appear in a Dropbox where they weren’t supposed to be. He said the hacker could not access the files, only lock them.

Team Contacts Malwarebytes

The team contacted Malwarebytes, which builds anti-malware software and Internet security software. Malwarebytes investigated the hack and said it most likely came from China, Russia or Japan.

After installing the anti-malware, the company removed additional instances of malware infection from more than 10,000 files.

A NASCAR spokesperson said the organization was not aware of any ransomware issues.

Lange said he did not believe the laptop was targeted because it was a race car team. The team estimated the data at $2 million and to recreate it would take close to 1,500 man hours, Lange said.

Winston said the data was priceless to the team, which could not function one day without it having a major impact on its success. Marcin Kleczynski, CEO at Malwarebytes, said instances of ransomware are increasing rapidly.

The team did not report the incident to the police because it was only $500 and they were able to retrieve the data within 24 hours.

Also read: Cryptocurrency for ransomware may fuel ‘largest crimewave in modern history’

The team now has additional security and a new sponsor – Malwarebytes. Malwarebytes is an associate sponsor and will have at least two primary sponsorships for Michael McDowell, a driver.

Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing  now deploys Malwarebytes anti-malware on all of its computers.

Image from Shutterstock.

Lester Coleman

Lester Coleman is a media relations consultant for the payments and automated retailing industries.