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Report: Town Pays Extortionist After Police Computer System Hacked

Apr 06, 2015 11:40AM ● By Bill Gilman

Tewksbury Police Department.

Cyberterrorism is an ever-growing, lucrative business around the globe and the Tewksbury Police Department can be counted among the victims.
According to a published report in the Town Crier, the computer system of the TPD was infected with a CryptoLocker ransomware virus that encrypted essential files and operating systems, making them inaccessible. The attack brought the department's computer operations to a grinding halt for five days.
Police Chief Timothy Sheehan said the computers were infected on Dec. 7 but that a problem was not noticed until Dec. 14, according to the article.
When officers attempted to access data that had been locked, the department received an automated demand for $500 in Bitcoin currency in exchange for decrypting the files. The demand and the bitcoin account are untraceable.
Police and town officials reached out to state and federal law enforcement, as well as a team of computer experts but were unable to retrieve or rebuild the locked information. According to the article, a backup hard drive had also been infected and the only "clean" backup contained data that was 18 months old.
Ultimately, town officials were forced to wave the white flag and make the extortion payment of $500. Once the payment was made, the files were decrypted.
According to the article, several other police departments have been attacked in the same way and, to date, no solution has been found, short of paying the "ransom."
Town Manager Richard Montuori said the town has taken steps, including upgraded backups and upgraded firewalls, to make sure the situation does not happen again.
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