A small town in Canada has decided to pay off the hackers behind a ransomware attack to get their computer systems back online.
One of the negative effects of cryptocurrency is that it helps fuel the rise of ransomware attacks. Hackers can easily target victims anywhere in the world and demand a ransom in cryptocurrency that is easily paid across borders. There’s no dropping a bag of cash off at a drop or putting in a wire transfer to some Swiss bank account to pay off hackers anymore. The most affected by such attacks are local governments (small towns and cities) that don’t have the resources or skills to fight off such an assault. One town in Canada has decided to bite the bullet and pay the Bitcoin ransom demanded.
Paying the Ransom
The town of Midland in Canada was hit with a ransomware attack just over a week ago. The town of 16,000 people had its computer systems shut down for 48 hours. A number of important services were completely crippled by this attack: email, marriage applications, payment processing, permit issuing, and the reloading of transit cards.
Fortunately, vital services like fire response and waste management were not impacted by the hack. The hackers demanded a Bitcoin ransom for the town’s computer system to become fully operational again. Eventually, the Midland Town Council decided to pay off the attackers. The actual amount of the ransom has not been released. The town put out a media release that states:
Under the guidance of cyber security experts, we have initiated the process to pay the ransom in exchange for the decryption keys. Although not ideal, it is in our best interest to bring the system back online as quickly as possible. The Town had previously secured an insurance policy to cover such circumstances. Decryption efforts are underway.
While nobody is happy that the hackers were paid off, the silver lining is that no personal data was stolen. The media release notes:
The Town of Midland understands that residents and businesses are concerned about the potential for privacy breaches with respect to information held by the Town. We understand and appreciate the concern, but ongoing investigations have not found any evidence that suggests information was inappropriately accessed or removed from our systems.
Ransomware Seems to Be on the Rise
Ransomware attacks can be extremely expensive. The city of Atlanta was hit with such an attack earlier this year, and the effects have been devastating. The City Attorney’s office lost 10 years of documents. The city originally spent over $2 million to fix the problems caused by the hack, but the total cost could reach more than $9 million more before everything is said and done.
Just last month, the PGA of America was hit with a ransomware attack right before an important tournament. That organization refused to pay the ransom demands. However, it should be pointed out that the PGA has some really deep pockets. Small towns like Midland don’t have the funds to find the best experts in the field to fix a computer system that has been compromised.
Sadly, ransomware looks not to be leaving anytime soon. Iran is reportedly stepping up their cyberattacks due to ongoing U.S.-led economic sanctions. Plus, hackers can make quite a bit of money off such attacks. One new form of ransomware, supposedly being used by North Korea, generated $640,000 in bitcoins in just a two-week period.
Do you think the town of Midland should have paid the hackers or not? Let us know in the comments below.
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