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Ransomware Attack Leads a Town in Canada to Agree to Pay Hackers to Regain Access to Network

Midland, a town within Ontario, Canada, was the victim of a computer system breech with the use of ransom malware. The attack brought encrypted files to the network at the beginning of September, and it locked the entire town down for about two straight days. Citizens, during that time, were unable to use their own computers, process payments, use email, reload transit cards, or even process marriage applications. Even with all these areas of interest impacted, critical services like waste management and fire response remained unimpacted.

Ultimately, the town decided that they would rather pay the ransom than leave their computers locked. The demand was made for the ransom to be covered with Bitcoin, though press releases have not shown exactly how much of the coin was demanded. Instead, a release from Midland Town Council said,

“Under the guidance of cyber security experts, we have initiated the process to pay the ransom in exchange for the decryption keys. Although not ideal, it is in our best interest to bring the system back online as quickly as possible. The Town had previously secured an insurance policy to cover such circumstances. Decryption efforts are underway.”

A similar situation occurred last month against the Professional Golfers Association of America, though the group ultimately decided not to pay. According to the group that hacked both places, they are the only ones that have the decryption software, which they used to push the urgency of payout. It is unclear if the PGA of America managed to decrypt it on their own, and what services they would have used, if they did.

By agreeing to the terms of the digital ransom, Midland is not alone. Many other places that have been hacked in a similar way have decided to pay up as well. Sophos, a firm for cybersecurity in the UK, noted that the creators of one type of ransomware, SamSam, managed to acquire over $6 million in payouts during their endeavors. Individually, the highest paid was $64,000.

Another report last year showed that the array of ransomwares was able to bring in about $25 million within two years. The group included Google, Chainanalysis, University of California, San Diego, and New York University. The majority of these funds were paid out via BTC-e’s exchange.

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