A ransomware attack against the police department in Stuart, Florida last year had an unexpected consequence; the police officers had to drop several cases after losing important evidence.
When a ransomware attack hits an institution or company, expectations are roughly the same. People either pay to restore services, which doesn’t always guarantee a decryption key from the attackers, or they don’t pay and lose the information entirely. If they’re lucky, they have backups. The entire process is followed by the purchase of new equipment and services. This means the overall cost of a ransomware attack is usually much higher than the ransom itself, and way higher than the cost of avoiding the whole problem in the first place by setting up a security solution.
In the Stuart incident, the ransomware hit police servers and infrastructure, resulting in the loss of data that included evidence against various defendants. After the dust settled, the State Attorney’s Office had to drop 11 narcotic cases for loss of evidence.
Much of the non-physical evidence in a trial is stored on police computers. Things like photos and videos were wiped clean, setting back the prosecutorial process so much that it was impossible to continue with the cases.
According to a WPTV investigation, if the Florida cases progressed unimpeded, the prosecutors would have brought 28 charges against six defendants for various counts, including meth possession, cocaine possession, selling, manufacturing, or delivering various narcotics, and the illegal use of a two-way communication device.
The asked for a ransom of $300,000, payable in Bitcoin, but the administration refused to pay. It took more than six weeks for the police department to recover.