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Mass. Police Forced to Pay Bitcoin Ransom to Malware Authors

Mobile Commerce Insider Featured Article

November 25, 2013

Mass. Police Forced to Pay Bitcoin Ransom to Malware Authors

By Oliver VanDervoort
Contributing Writer

It wasn’t that long ago that paying for something in Bitcoins seemed out of the realm of possibility. The technology has grown mightily in the last few years that actually makes owning and exchanging Bitcoin amounts rather lucrative. The trading of the virtual currency has become so lucrative that ATM machines that deal specifically with Bitcoins are starting to pop up. When talking about any kind of financial technology, there is always going to be a down side. One Massachusetts police force found this out the hard way after paying a Bitcoin ransom when their computers were infected with the Cryptolocker ransomware.

The Cryptolocker malware works by infecting a computer through a legitimate looking email message. The message urges the recipient to open an attachment  (usually in the form of a voicemail or invoice) Once the attachment is opened and the computer is infected, the hard drive will have the computer display a countdown timer. The malware will also issue a message demanding the release of data on the harddrive of 2 bitcoins.

By using Bitcoins, the hackers have managed to get an almost untraceable peer-to-peer digital online currency. The current exchange rate for 2 Bitcoins is a surprisingly huge, $1,338 by today’s exchange rates. People outside the technological realm, who have never heard or dealt with Bitcoins are often shocked as just how valuable a full Bitcoin can be. The value seems to be real, as businesses and Universities have started accepting the virtual currency as payment for goods and services.

“(The virus) is so complicated and successful that you have to buy these Bitcoins, which we had never heard of,” Swansea Police Lt. Gregory Ryan talking to the Herald News. “It was an education for (those who) had to deal with it.”

Ryan claims that the state computers are now completely free of the malware and that essential operations computers weren’t affected. The Massachusetts police department is just the latest victim on a growing list. The FBI is currently investigating this infection and believes the malware came from somewhere in former Soviet nations like the Ukraine or Russia.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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