Ransomware Hackers Hitting Police Departments

Police in Maine whose shared server was infected by ransomware last week chose to pay $300 to the perpetrators rather than risk losing their internal files or spend more money and time to try to work around the cyberattack. In a similar attack in Massachusetts, local police paid $500 ransom to the hackers to regain control of their data.

Attacks involving ransomware, in which malware restricts users' access to their own computer files, are on the rise, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Once spread primarily by e-mails with malicious attachments, ransomware is increasingly infecting users in so-called "drive-by" attacks via compromised Web sites.

In these most recent cases, ransomware known as "megacode" infected the IT systems of police departments in Lincoln County, Maine, and Tewksbury, Massachusetts. In both instances, police were able to regain access to their data after paying ransoms using the digital currency Bitcoin, which ensures greater anonymity in online transactions.

Other Costs Beyond Ransom

"The average case of a ransomware attack can be quite damaging given that the target of an attack is typically the company's intellectual property," Andrey Pozhogin, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Kaspersky Lab North America, told us. "There are a number of ways things can go wrong even if the company decides to pay the ransom."

Among those potential problems are actions by a system administrator -- or bugs in the malware itself -- that can make encrypted data unrecoverable. Organizations attacked by ransomware might also have to contend with costly downtime, IT infrastructure damage, legal fallout caused by data losses, or damaged relationships with partners and customers.

Despite these possible risks, only 37 percent of businesses globally -- and just 28 percent of businesses in North America -- say they believe ransomware represents a serious threat.

Kaspersky Labs on Monday also announced...

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