U.S. Senators Seek Answers From Feds On Ransomware Attacks Against Government Agencies

The Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, U.S. Senate committee, has sent letters to the Justice Department and the Department Homeland Security (DHS) asking about the ransomware threat to the public and if any government agencies have paid ransoms to remove ransomware, according to nextgov.com.

There have been incidents of local law enforcement agencies paying ransoms to hackers to remove ransomware.Homeland Security

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, and Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, sent a letter to both federal agencies seeking information on what government agencies at all levels are doing about ranswomware threats.

Senators Want Specific Information

They asked if any state, federal or local governments have asked the Department of Justice or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for help in removing software from computers. If so, the senators want the departments to describe the nature of any assistance that has been sought. They also want to know if any government agencies have paid ransoms to remove ransomware and whether the agencies have been able to decrypt the computer systems.

The letter further asked how many instances of ransomware the agencies have been made aware of in the past 12 months, what agencies and systems were impacted, and what the results were.

In addition, the letter asked if the DHS’s EINSTEIN, ALBERT and its Enhanced Cybersecurity Services prevention and detection systems reduced incidents of ransomware on government computers.

The senators ask how the prevention and detection measures can be improved.

The FBI received 992 “Cryptowall” virus complaints with losses totaling $18 million between April 2014 and June 2015.

Also read: CryptoWall 4.0: Why the ransomware presents a bigger threat than its predecessor

Local Agencies Are Paying Ransoms

The Lincoln County Sherriff’s Office and four towns sharing the sherriff’s computer system in Maine sent $300 to a hacker in May, according to WCSH-TV in Portland, Me. The attacker advised that the virus would freeze and erase files. After receiving the money, the hacker sent a code to unlock the files. A police official said the payment had to be made to get access to their information.

A virus forced members of the Salisbury, Mass. fire department to use pen and paper, according to The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.

The Midlothian, Ill. police department was hacked after an employee opened an email containing a worm that locked up the computer. A message on the computer demanded payment for a code that would restore access. The department sent a $606 money order to a New York bitcoin café, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Lester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.