The Leominster Public Schools District has become the latest victim of a Bitcoin ransomware cyberattack. The school district was forced to pay $10,000 in Bitcoin to unlock their system.
Details of the Cyberattack
On April 14th, suspected hackers took over the computer system of the Leominster Public Schools District in Massachusetts, shutting it down. According to Paula Deacon, the superintendent of the school district, a lock was placed on the computer system and a ransom was demanded. Meanwhile, the cyber hijackers stipulated that the ransom should be paid in Bitcoin, the popular cryptocurrency.
As part of the negotiations between the school district and the hackers, decryption keys were sent to unlock some of the locked files as a show of proof. Commenting on the issue, Dean Mazzarella, the mayor of Leominster, said that the perpetrators were “smart.” He also said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was tracking the matter. According to the mayor, the $10,000 ransom payment will be taken from the city’s general fund. Mazzarella also added:
They were on top of their game. They are using the best and highest technology. They were just looking for an opening and the system was hacked somehow or another.
Bitcoin Ransomware is ‘Impossible to Track’
Michael Goldman, the interim Leominster Police Chief, said that the crime is impossible to track. He declared his suspicions that the hackers were from overseas, probably Europe. As a result, there is precious little that the police department can do. Goldman also said that he advised Deacon to pay the ransom.
Goldman also stressed that the ransomware attack did not represent a theft of any data. The school district’s files were locked down, as well as the school’s email system, but no data was actually mined.
The Growing Trend of Cryptocurrency Ransomware Attacks
This attack is the latest in a slew of cryptocurrency-related cyber-attacks that are becoming more rampant. In January 2018, Hancock Health in Indiana was hit with a ransomware attack. The hospital was forced to pay $55,000 worth of Bitcoin to the hackers. Perhaps the most popular Bitcoin ransomware is the WannaCry ransomware variant. It caused major disruptions across the globe in 2017 by attacking computer systems and demanding Bitcoin as ransom. Victims of the attack included the U.K. NHS and tech companies in Spain, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Russia.
Having an up-to-date malware protection system can help prevent ransomware attacks. In addition, users are also advised to perform regular backups to sites that are not directly linked to their systems. In the event of a hack, users can restore their systems from the backups rather than paying the ransom. Still, no system is completely invulnerable to attack.
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