A sheriff’s office in the US state of Arkansas was infected with ransomware and paid three bitcoin, worth about $2,400, in ransom to regain access to its files earlier this month, reported The Associated Press.
“This type of attack is designed to deny the owner of the data access to the data whereas in other attacks, people want to steal the data,” Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Daniel Klatt told television station KHBS.
The encrypted documents were mostly administrative, including reports and arrest and operational information. However, Klatt assured residents no data was stolen and access to the system was regained on Monday.
Perpetrators of ransomware, the fastest-growing online threat, use bitcoins to keep transactions anonymous. Although the FBI has warned users about its growth, there still isn’t an advanced strategy to prevent ransomware attacks and victims desperately pay ransom to regain access to their files and system.
Only regular backups of all documents might help, as it’s quite rare for hackers to reveal the decryption key following a payment. In some cases, ransom can go as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars. The FBI advises victims to not pay the money and immediately reach out to law enforcement.
Carroll County’s Sheriff’s Office is not the only institution to pay ransom in a malware attack, as most victims, especially businesses, are more open to paying hackers hoping their information will not be made public. Pennsylvania State Prosecutor’s Office and a Hollywood hospital were also reported as paying ransom.