A suburban Chicago Police Department recently paid a $500 worth Bitcoin ransom to retrieve their malware-hit data from an unidentified hacker.
Somewhere in January, Midlothian police reported to have been attacked by cryptoware — a trojan that encrypts data of the target’s computer and seeks ransom for its retrieval from online criminals. Reportedly, the hacker in this case had encrypted specific confidential files on the police’s computer, though he never got to access them.
According to Calvin Harder Jr., a local IT expert at Midlothian, someone from the police department accidentally opened up the mail affected with cryptoware. Due to this unaware action, the malware quietly got executed on the computer and locked it down eventually. When police tried to access the infected machine, a notification asked them to pay the ransom in Bitcoin for private keys.
Harden also revealed that the police department tried every bit of a way to retrieve the files without paying the hacker. However in the end, it could have been more expensive than the ransom itself. “Because the backups were also infected, the option was to pay the hacker and get the files decrypted which is what we decided to do,” he explained.
To that end, the Midlothian Police Department sent around $600 to a Bitcoin cafe in New York alongside the Bitcoin address of the hacker. The cafe simply forwarded the ransom to the hacker’s wallet.
Bitcoin Questioned Again for Facilitating Crime
Like most of the people, Harden believes that criminals only want to be paid in Bitcoin as the cryptocurrency is “pretty much untraceable” to the government. The similar statement have been tossed by many of the politicians and bankers in the past, which is nothing but a misconception in our opinion.
Bitcoin is somewhat pseudo-anonymous, thanks to the way its algorithm is structured. The network records every transaction on a publicly-available blockchain. And even when one’s name is not associated with the Bitcoin address, the information could be inferred by using certain tracing models. Imagine how the Silk Road Bitcoins were captured by the FBI.