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US police department pays $750 Cryptolocker Trojan ransom demand

Stumps up for BItcoins

Article comments

A US police department was so determined to get back important files that had been encrypted by the rampaging Cryptolocker Trojan it decided to pay the sizable ransom being demanded by the criminals.

It sounds like a far-fetched and probably serious breach of law enforcement protocol, but according to a local news report, this is exactly what the police department in Swansea Massachusetts decided to do when “several images and word documents,” were found to have been encrypted by the malware.

The department had followed the instructions given by Cryptolocker and on 10 November bought two Bitcoins worth $750 (£470) which resulted in the criminals sending the decrypt key, police said.

“[The Trojan] is so complicated and successful that you have to buy these Bitcoins, which we had never heard of,” said Swansea Police Lt. Gregory Ryan in an admission to the press many will find quite staggering.

Ryan didn’t say why the files were so important that a police department saw fit to pay a digital ransom to criminals, but insisted “It was an education for [those who] had to deal with it,” and that at least the infection had not caused damage to the system the department used for booking official reports and logging photographs.

“We were never compromised,” Ryan said, a statement that many would deem inaccurate.

Only last weekend, the UK National Crime Agency put out an alert that the criminals behind Cryptolocker were now targeting UK SMEs on a large scale. Their recommendation is that affected businesses do not pay the ransom, not least because there is no guarantee that they will even receive an unlock key.

There is growing concern about the scale and success of the Cryptolocker campaign which, it is worth pointing out, is far from the first malware to use the technique of locking or encrypting victim’s files. A key element of Cryptolocker’s recent success is that it has started demanding untraceable Bitcoins for payment rather than more conventional money channels that were easier to block or trace.

Another weakness is that there is often no central place for affected individuals to report infections, nor seek advice. Consequently, some victims pay up. The citizens of Swansea Massachusetts now know that this helplessness includes their local police department.

"With the FBI and the UK NCA stating that this type of activity should not be encouraged by paying the ransom, it is surprising to see that the local police department paying to regain access to the files,” commented Gavin Millard, EMEA technical director of security firm Tripwire.

“What is more concerning though, is the apparent lack of security and backup procedures on systems that could be storing critical and highly confidential documents.”


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Cees Timmerman said: Bitcoin is a distributed bank and open source right Scan the past and future history for the wallet and coin IDs and use big networks or spyware to break Tor again

GonzoI said: The bitcoins are going through the police departments possession BEFORE going to the criminals You need the endpoint exchange tracked not the beginning point They know which bitcoins were used much like a marked bill but unlike marked bills no one is looking for them when they are exchanged Someone may eventually run across the bitcoins again but the papertrail of conventional currency does not exist yet for bitcoins Follow the money is a cute TV phrase but in the real world it only applies when criminals are transferring large sums through conventional means

Cees Timmerman said: Look up the wallet owner the bitcoins were from Also follow the money

GonzoI said: PRISM is an NSA program that gathers communication data It is a disturbingly vast overreach but it is not everything in the world They are targeting major datacenters such as those owned by Google and Yahoo not privately owned small servers that are typically the ones being controlled into deploying exploits Neither PRISM nor any other system can magically see into everything that ever happened on the internet FBI can potentially take the affected computer and diagnose its internet history and log files to trace it back to one compromised server but that server isnt going to have logs of who uploaded the exploit to itWhat it will take is these cretins screwing up Putting their exploit on a server that the FBI or some other organization controls and getting traced from that point Or implementation of tracing facilities for bitcoin transactions just like every other currency The latter seems the most effective since the bitcoins are uniquely identifiable There just isnt anyone currently looking at the unique identifiers right now to see if theyre marked like there are for dollars or euros

madmax said: Look up the Prism program Edward Snowdon not enough for you

GonzoI said: Trace what An event that happened in the past or the bitcoin that intentionally lacks the in-place facilities for tracing

madmax said: Why the hell cant the FBI trace it instead of just saying people should not pay the Ransom Or did the intelligence forces create the virus themselves We know they collect all our communications to fight alleged terrorism but they cant find the prople who created this virus

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