Tewksbury Police Department decided to pay a $500 Bitcoin ransom to regain access to a police server.
Hackers had infected the department’s files with a ransomware program called CryptoLocker. The malware program ceased the police systems for 5 days after which the department finally agreed to pay up.
CryptoLocker enters into the system via emails. When the users open the tainted emails and click on the hyperlink given in the message, the computer is affected.
When the malware program infected a computer, it encrypted the drive and could only be unlocked once the private key is entered, for which the criminals demanded a ransom payment.
Besides, the hackers even demanded the Bitcoin ransom be paid via Tor network, a free software for enabling anonymous communication, which makes it extremely difficult to trace the location of the hackers by authorities including the FBI and National Security Agency.
The infected computer contained a significant amount of police data, including its Computer Aided Dispatch, records management, arrest logs, calls for service.
However, this is not the first case of a police department being forced to pay up. In November 2013, Swansea Police Department had to pay the hackers $750 to get its files back. In January 2014, the Midlothian police fell victim to a similar threat and had to pay $500.
According to the Tewksbury Town Crier, a local newspaper, the Tewksbury Police Department chief Timothy Sheehan said that those who infected the computers in early December 2014 were “terrorists”:
“Nobody wants to negotiate with terrorists. Nobody wants to pay terrorists,” said Mr. Sheehan. “We did everything we possibly could.”
“It was an eye-opening experience, I can tell you right now. It made you feel that you lost control of everything. Paying the bitcoin ransom was the last resort,” he added.
In Durham, N.H., chief of police Dave Kurz decided not to pay the Bitcoin ransom to hackers as the department had backed up the encrypted information.
“We had to clean essentially all the computers, but all of our data was prepared,” Mr. Kurz said.
The Tewksbury Police Department also had the option of not bowing down to the threats of hackers had it backed up its files and other crucial data.