Ransomware Disrupts D.C.'s Security Video System

About 70 percent of the cameras hooked up to the police's security video system in Washington, D.C., were reportedly unable to record footage for several days before presidential inauguration due to a ransomware attack. The attack affected 123 of the 187 network video recorders that form the city's CCTV system, according to the Washington Post. Each of the cameras is used to store video footage captured by up to four cameras installed in public spaces.

The incident occurred on Jan. 12, eight days before the inauguration and it took three days to restore the system. The city refused to pay the ransom and sent teams at each site to take the affected devices offline, replace their software and restart them, according to the Post.

Archana Vemulapalli, the city’s Chief Technology Officer, said the city paid no ransom and resolved the problem by taking the devices offline, removing all software and restarting the system at each site, according to the Post. An investigation into the source of the hack continues, said Vemulapalli, who said the intrusion was confined to the police CCTV cameras that monitor public areas and did not extend deeper into D.C. computer networks.

Should a business pay a ransom for its data? It depends, reported Infosecurity magazine, which noted that police in Texas have lost nearly eight years’ worth of digital evidence after refusing to pay a ransomware fine. The Cockerell Hill Police Department in south Dallas decided after speaking to the FBI not to pay the near $4,000 ransom after discovering the malware in mid-December.

The ransomware was introduced to the network via a spam email spoofed to imitate a department-issued address. The files affected date all the way back to 2009, reported Infosecurity magazine, although it said that "police tried to play down the impact on investigations, claiming that hard copies of all documents and the vast majority of videos and photographs are still kept on CD/DVD."

“It is unknown at this time how many total digital copies of documents were lost, as it is also unknown how many videos or photographs that could have assisted newer cases will not be available, although the number of affected prosecutions should remain relatively small,” the police department noted.

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