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Threats Of Sharing US Police Informant Data By Ransomware Hackers

Threats Of Sharing US Police Informant Data By Ransomware Hackers
The computer network of the Washington, D.C. police department was breached, it said on Monday. Sensitive data, including on informants, were claimed to have been stolen by a Russian-speaking ransomware syndicate. It was also reported that the police department was threatened by the hackers of sharing the information with the local criminal gangs unless an unspecified ransom was paid ot the hackers by the police department.
 The hackers claimed to have stolen more than 250 gigabytes of data and they put up screenshots on their dark website in support of the claims.
It had asked the FBI to investigate the "unauthorized access", the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement. There was no confirmed news of the hack affecting any police operations and there was no confirmation either from the department about it being hit by ransomware.
It had "downloaded a sufficient amount of information from your internal networks", said the Babuk group, a relatively new ransomware gang, on its website. In its claims,. The group gave the police three days to contact it or "we will start to contact gangs in order to drain the informants."
Data from at least four computers, including intelligence reports, information on gang conflicts, the jail census and other administrative files, had been hacked and accessed by the cyber criminals as suggested by the screenshots posted by the group. a text document on one computer entitled "How To Restore Your Files" was seen in one of the images which  apparently was of network locations accessed by the criminals.
Instructions on how to contact the ransomware criminals is generally included in such documents. The standard operating procedure of ransomware criminals is to exfiltrate sensitive data from networks that they manage to hack into even as they sow malware which encrypts data in the affected network once it is activate. Software keys that unscramble the data is provided by the criminals only after they receive payment.
Ransomware analyst Brett Callow of the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft said that ransomware has hit 26 government agencies in the US so far this year and online data stolen from 16 of them have been released by cyber criminals. However victims hit by ransomware do not always pay a ransom but instead chose to take on the arduous task of rebuilding networks from backups.
It was taking the threat seriously, the D.C. police department said.
"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. An FBI spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
Many experts consider the worsening global incident of ransomware attacks as a threat to national security as the damages from such attacks runs into tens of billions of dollars.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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