The Washington, D.C., police department announced that its computer network had been hacked, and a Russian-speaking syndicate claimed to have obtained classified records, including information on informants, which it would share with local criminal groups unless police will pay a ransom.
The hackers posted screenshots on their dark website supporting the theft of over 250 gigabytes of data.
The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia said in a statement that it had asked the FBI to examine the “unauthorized access.” There was no evidence that any police activity had been harmed.
The Babuk group, a ransomware gang, said on its website that it had “downloaded a sufficient amount of information from your internal networks” and gave police three days to contact it, otherwise “we will contact gangs in order to drain the informants.”
According to the screenshots it uploaded, it has data from at least four computers, including intelligence records, gang activity statistics, the jail census, and other administrative documents. One image, which seemed of network locations accessed by the attackers, revealed a text document titled “How To Restore Your Files” on one computer.
Such documents often contain guidance on how to contact ransomware attackers, whose normal operating practice is to ex filtrate confidential data from networks they access as spreading malware that, once enabled, encrypts data.
Ransomware has already targeted 26 government agencies in the United States this year. Hackers published online data taken from 16 of them, according to Emsisoft ransomware analyst Brett Callow. Victims of such attacks don’t always pay, instead, they try to rebuild networks from backups.
The D.C. police department stated that the threat was taken seriously.
“We are aware of unauthorized access on our server. While we determine the full impact and continue to review activity, we have engaged the FBI to fully investigate this matter,” the department statement said. There was no immediate comment from an FBI spokeswoman.
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Many consider a worsening global outbreak of ransomware attacks to be a national security problem, causing tens of billions of dollars in damage. Since most attackers find a safe place in Russia and other countries with poor rule of law, law enforcement in the United States is essentially unable to fight it.
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