8 years worth of police data taken hostage by Osiris ransomware

Lucia Danes - -

Within the last couple of years, an increasing number of law enforcement organizations around the world have been joining forces with cyber security experts in hopes of making the web environment more secure[1]. On the most part, such situation was fueled by the sudden boost of ransomware attacks in 2015, which have resulted in around 428 thousands of infected computers worldwide[2]. Projects like “Noransom” initiated by the collaboration of Dutch Police and the Kaspersky Labs were launched as a response[3]. Unfortunately, ransomware is not a cyber infection you can immobilize that easily. These parasites are constantly evolving and continue to wreak havoc on personal computers as well as institutional networks, not hesitating to tackle even the law enforcement institutions themselves. The police department of Cockrell Hill is one of the latest ransomware victims, which story has hit the headlines earlier in January.[4]

Image of the Osiris ransomware and Texan police

Cockrell Hill PD based in Dallas, TX has found its 8 years worth of evidence and other data encrypted by unknown ransomware in December 2016. A press release describing the incident has been announced a month later after the experts identified the ransomware and estimated the damage made. It turns out that the department’s computers have been subjected to the Osiris virus breach. Nonetheless, the identity of the virus did not come as much of a surprise to the cyber security experts. In fact, Osiris is known as one of last year’s most malicious and destructive cyber threats, which has even managed to outgrow its infamous predecessor, the Locky virus[5]. The virtually undecryptable file encryption algorithm and some top-notch programming have been the cornerstones of the Osiris success, leaving the victims little hope for data recovery. Luckily, the Texan police department did not have to suffer the worst of the possible consequences since they had most of their important data stored on CD and DVD. In today’s standards, such backup technique is rather outdated, and there are definitely more reliable and convenient methods to keeping the data secure. Nevertheless, in this case, it did the job, so Cockrell Hill PD succeeded to get away with only a fraction of what the ransomware is actually capable of. Needless to say, the backup copies also saved the department from indirectly supporting the criminals with a 4,000 dollar ransom that they demanded for the data recovery.

Ransomware attacks on institutions is a frequent occurrence. According to the global statistics, more that 50% of all companies and institutions have been hit by ransomware at least once. Most of these attacks were made possible by the email spoofing and malicious spam campaigns. That is the primary reason why raising cyber security awareness should be a top priority of every institution.

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