Tewksbury, MA police pay $500 ransom to restore hacked data

By Chelsea Feinstein, cfeinstein@lowellsun.com

A state trooper responding to a call starts his vehicle, but is unable to shift the gear from park to drive. The engine RPMs suddenly spike and the engine accelerates, no foot on the pedal. Then the engine cuts off on its own.

The unmarked 2012 Chevrolet Impala from the Virginia State Police's (VSP) fleet has been hacked -- but luckily, by good hackers.

This is what police officers could someday face in the age of car hacking. It's just one in a series of cyberattacks waged on the VSP's Impala and on one of its 2013 Ford Taurus marked patrol cars as part of an experiment by a public-private partnership to test how state trooper vehicles could be sabotaged via cyberattacks. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in May first announced the initiative, which was aimed at protecting the state's public safety agencies and citizens from vehicle-hacking.


Providing law enforcement and vendor executives with high-level understanding of what it takes to be CJIS compliant.  LEOTTA provides compliance courses for police executives, terminal agency coordinators, and local agency security officers.  Vendor training includes state and federal criminal background checks and using CJIS to expand business opportunities.

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Assist agencies with on-site analysis and network penetration testing of their law enforcement networks in order to ensure compliance and prepare for state and federal CJIS audits.

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Utilization of many cloud-based data storage systems are found to not meet the CJIS security policy standards. 


Published on Oct 7, 2015:
Videography provided by Justin Naumann of Red Titan Films

For Full Story - Click here

TEWKSBURY, MA -- Police Chief Tim Sheehan described it as "the perfect storm."

When a ransom message demanding $500 in exchange for unlocking the department's encrypted data appeared on a computer screen, Sheehan reached out to cybersecurity experts to figure out how to get the data back without paying.

But due to several complications, "it simply wasn't possible."

"We had no clean backup, we couldn't restore from our external drive, we had no shadow copying. The experts couldn't undo what was done to restore our data," Sheehan said.   "Our alternative was live with a backup that was 18 months old and try to restore some of the data in between with lots of man hours that would have cost thousands of dollars, or take a risk at paying the $500 and learning a valuable lesson about our storage systems."

In early December, the Tewksbury Police Department paid a $500 bitcoin ransom to regain access to data that had been encrypted by a still-unidentified source, about four days after learning of the problem. The department had been given a 10-day deadline to pay the ransom with guaranteed access to their data.

State Trooper Vehicles Hacked

Car-hacking research initiative in Virginia shows how even older vehicles could be targeted in cyberattacks.   Posted by Information Weeks - Dark Reading

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Cleveland, OH - LEOTTA CJIS personnel are discovering that many agencies who utilize cloud-based storage systems for storing video data from body-worn video recording devices are failing to meet the CJIS security policy standards for cloud-based computing.  In several instances, these violations extend to mobile dash-cam video systems as well.

In review of several cloud-based storage systems, vendors are employing cloud storage solutions which have not been vetted through the FBI CJIS security policy.  Cloud providers are failing to provide proof of CJIS system compliance assessments to their law enforcement customers as well as ensuring secure transmission of video evidence from the body-worn camera to the cloud storage.

These systems can be the cause of data breaches to law enforcement data systems and loss of critical video data evidence to hackers.

LEOTTA CJIS professionals can assist departments in writing RFQs for cloud-based systems and review compliance of proposed systems  prior to purchase and installation.  LEOTTA suggest that all law enforcement agencies adopt the "Ensure They Comply Before You Buy!" campaign prior to purchasing any technology which utilizes cloud-based technology.