Cybercrime Hits Police Force: Police Evidence Frozen by Ransomware Attack

Imagine for a moment that you have been the victim of a crime. You contacted the police, pressed charges and waiting for your day in court. Now imagine that all of the evidence your lawyer was going to use has been locked; and unless a ransom is paid, the evidence is lost forever.

In mid-December 2016, the Cockrell Hill Police Department located just outside of Dallas, Texas was hit with a ransomware attack. An unnamed employee opened an infected email, causing the installation of a malicious software that encrypted eight years' worth of police evidence. According to Mother Jones, the ransomware attack froze a server "containing documents, videos, and photos dating back to 2009."

The cybercriminal told the police department that if they wanted access to their files again they were to pay $4,000 in a bitcoin transaction. The police department contacted the FBI for guidance and were advised not to give into the cybercriminal's demands. Instead of paying the ransom, IT staff wiped the server, permanently deleting police evidence.

Though the police department issued a statement saying that "no police reports, nor any criminal history information was lost," including video footage, as a result of the breach (copies of the evidence compromised were allegedly stored on hard-drives and as hardcopies) defense lawyer J. Collin Beggs has said alleged video of his client is unavailable for review. "[This loss] makes it incredibly difficult if not impossible to confirm what's written in police reports if there's no video. The playing field is already tilted in [the prosecution's] favor enormously, and this tilts it even more."

This is not the first police department that has suffered a data breach. Mother Jones reports four others have fallen victim to a cyberattack, including:

  • Dickson County Sheriff's Department, Tennessee
  • Durham Police Department, New Hampshire
  • Midlothian Police Department, Illinois
  • Tewksbury Police Department, Massachusetts

Cybercriminals target institutions they believe they can extort money from due to the sensitive information they have been able to download and lock down. Criminal histories, police reports and crime scene photos can make or break a case and are thus incredibly valuable.

Cybersecurity and Your Small Business
What does the above information have to do with how you manage your small business? It's simple: if you don't have data breach insurance coverage, you could lose confidential information pertaining to your staff and customers that could be used for nefarious dealings. If personal and financial information is stolen, you employees and customers will be at constant risk of having their identities stolen. Because you did not take cybersecurity precautions and protect their information, they could sue you for negligence. But I have small business insurance, you're thinking. Won't that protect me in the event of a data breach? No. Small business insurance protects you in every other type of situation but a cyberattack. To keep your business running smoothly, you need both small business and cyber insurance policies.

60 percent of small businesses hit by a cyberattack go out of business within six months of the attack. Don't let the organization your worked so hard to build crumble at your feet. Sign up for a cyber insurance plan today with CyberPolicy, and don't forget about a general business insurance policy to protect against liabilities.

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