Several police departments in Maine had no other choice but to pay around $300 ransom to computer hackers in order to get their police records back. These include those computers at the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and at the Houlton Police Department.
The computer virus has been identified as ransomware, which is a type of malware that causes restricted access to an infected system and demands a ransom payment for it to remove the restriction. The virus had so far caused the data of four towns to be locked up along with those data from the county of Lincoln since they are all tied to a special computer network which they use for sharing important records and files.
The affected police records from the hack were held like "hostages" by the hackers after someone downloaded a so-called "megacode" virus which had placed an encryption code on all the police stations' data.
According to Sheriff Todd Brackett of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, several attempts were made to get their records back. Damariscotta Police Chief Ron Young also said that they needed to have their programs back for them to start working back online. When all else had failed, the police ended up with paying around $300 ransom to the virus' maker.
"We needed our programs to get back online and that was a choice we all discussed and took to get back online to get our information," said Young.
The Houlton Police Department had the same ransomware encounter earlier in the week which resulted in it paying the ransomware hackers in exchange for their computers' "freedom."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to track the payment, which was entered into a Swiss bank account using bitcoins digital currency. However, the bureau was unable to establish the identity of the hackers.
Ransomware cases seemed to occur more frequently than ever with a number of law enforcement departments across the U.S. ending up paying the ransom amount in order to retrieve their files. The hackers, which are known to have come from Russia, would often demand from their victims a ransom payment in bitcoins, which is a type of online currency that has fluid value. Oftentimes, the hackers would warn that if the ransom amount is not paid within a certain time frame, they would totally wipe the computer or system clean.
Photo: Ministerio TIC Colombia I Flickr