A few days ago, most people had never heard of a New Hampshire town called Durham.
Today, that’s still the case, although a few more people have heard about Durham.
Durham has made headlines recently after the town’s police department was attacked by hackers. Specifically, hackers installed ransomware on the police department’s records computer and are demanding a fee of $600 USD or 600 Euros to unlock the files and decrypt the system.
The attackers used Cryptowall. Cryptowall encrypts files on the individual’s computer and prevents users from unlocking their own files. The fee starts at $600 USD before increasing three times. If payment still isn’t received after a prescribed date, then the key is deleted – permanently. That makes it impossible to retrieve your files because they’re locked behind tight encryption.
Unfortunately, the town of Durham is playing hardball with its attackers. The town of 15,000 residents is not acquiescing to the demands of hackers. Despite the fact that the entire town’s computer system is locked down, residents are not planning to pay the ransom.
Town Manager Todd Selig was quoted by CBS Boston news:
“Make no mistake, the Town of Durham will be paying no ransom.”
How did Durham get infected?
Apparently, the entire problem occurred because one officer downloaded an email attachment file. That email attachment file quickly spread across the police department’s internal network.
CryptoWall and CryptoLocker are the two biggest players in the encryption game. Both of them have been wildly successful at earning ransom money.
Unfortunately, there’s no known way to avoid CryptoLocker and Cryptowall. Yes, you can delete the files from your computer, but the encryption remains. That means your files are under a tight lock. Unless you can guess a 256-character alphanumeric password, you’re probably never getting your files back.
Worse, Cryptowall encrypts all storage devices attached to the PC. Unless you have an external hard drive disconnected from the network with a recent backup, your files are virtually guaranteed to be lost.
For all of these reasons, the town of Durham has no choice but to pay the $600 fee to decrypt its files. Since it doesn’t appear like that’s going to happen, Durham will have to say goodbye to all data on its servers.