Illinois Cops Pay Ransom in Bitcoin to Retrieve Data from Hacker

| Updated
by Eugenia Romanenko · 3 min read
Illinois Cops Pay Ransom in Bitcoin to Retrieve Data from Hacker
Photo: Public Building Commission of Chicago/ Flickr

A south suburban Chicago police department was hacked and forced to pay a $500 ransom to an unknown perpetrator.

In January, a police department in Midlothian, a village southwest of Chicago, was hit  by a virus which encrypted some files on a department computer. The department paid a $500 ransom to an unknown cybercriminal to regain access to data from a police computer.

Calvin Harden Jr., an information technology vendor working with the village, comments on the pecularities of the hacking saying that just that computer and particular files has been encrypted, but not the entire police department.

It all started when at the Midlothian Police Department, someone opened an email with the virus which locked down the computer. Then, a message asking for over $500 Bitcoin ransom in exchange for a code that could unlock the PC, appeared.

It’s necessary to mention that the hacker didn’t take the information from the computer. The machine was just made inaccessible. According to Mr Harden, as far as the backups were attacked as well, the only option was to pay the hacker and get the files unencrypted.

The Midlothian Village issued an invoice stating they paid over $600 “for MPD (Midlothian Police Department) virus.” A $606 money order including bank fees and surcharges was sent to a Bitcoin cafe in New York to transmit the money to the hacker.

Fred Hayes, president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, says that unfortunately, this type of virus is becoming more common. He recommends to protect themselves from  attacks by backing up the data.

“This is something that quite a few people recently, and when I say recently (I mean) over the last year or two, have been experiencing”

In addition, Mr Harden spoke about the hacker’s actions as criminal ones. That is why the undentified perpetrator asked for bitcoin as payment. This cryptocurrency cannot be tracked down. Moreover, it is often used by those who perform illegal activities via the Internet.

The Dickson County Sheriff’s Office in Dickson, Tennessee, has been hacked as well.The virus known as “Cryptowall” got into the department’s system locking up everything: police reports, crime scene photographs, witness statements, autopsy reports, records of traffic tickets. “A total of 72,000 files were blocked, and the department wound up having to pay a $500 ransom in Bitcoins, ” reports Inquisitr.

“Chiefs across the entire nation are concerned with the growing trend of computer crime,” Chicago Tribune reports the words of Mike Alsup, co-chair of the Communications and Technology Committee for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

“Hardly a day goes by that we don’t see in both the print and audio media, we hear of instances of computer crime, computer hacking, large organized criminal groups internationally that are stealing through the use of computers.”

So, Mr Harden said that he has been working for a firm that had a similar virus last year.  “When you tell someone this, it’s sort of they’re like, ‘What?’ It’s sort of a crazy scenario,” Harden said. “But it’s happening.”

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Eugenia Romanenko

Eugenia graduated from Minsk State Linguistic University with a degree in Intercultural Communication, Translation/Interpretation (Italian, English). Currently she works as a business analyst, freelance interpreter and tutor. She’s fond of numismatics, photos, good books and sports, adores travelling and cooking.

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