Pennsylvania county shells out a $500K ransom to recover stolen data

Delaware County says election data remains securely tucked way on a separate network

Ransomware code on a computer screen with a count down

Last week, hackers stole data from Delaware County, Pennsylvania and asked for a $500,000 ransom. New reports claim the county has buckled and will use its insurance coverage to pay the fee and restore the data.

The cyber attack led to the county taking parts of its network offline when it discovered the compromise.

"The County of Delaware recently discovered a disruption to portions of its computer network. We commenced an immediate investigation that included taking certain systems offline and working with computer forensic specialists to determine the nature and scope of the event. We are working diligently to restore the functionality of our systems," said the county.

The county added that the Bureau of Elections and the County's Emergency Services Department were not impacted and were on separate computer networks from The County of Delaware.

“There is no evidence they were impacted by the disruption,” it added. “The County is working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and will provide updates when they are available. Thank you for your patience as we work to restore the functionality of our systems.”

It is thought that the IP address for the Delaware County attack is tied to the Netherlands, but the attack could have originated elsewhere.

Chad Anderson, senior security researcher at DomainTools, told IT Pro that ransomware authors have increasingly gone after the double extortion attacks for the simple reason that this further encourages their victims to pay. 

“When sitting on a treasure trove of sensitive personal information, attackers know that the looming threat of exposing it on hacking forums gives them more leverage to instigate a payment. This all comes of course with an increasing number of businesses paying, further incentivizing attackers to use this extra leverage,” he said.

Anderson added that governmental bodies and public entities are particularly attractive targets for cyber-crime gangs and nation-state actors because of the financially lucrative or politically sensitive information they hold. 

“Government minsters, civil servants and anyone else involved in the process of government need to be especially vigilant to phishing emails – which remain the most popular entry vector for ransomware - and the security measures in place need to be the most stringent available, including user training on the risks and tell-tale signs of a phishing attack and email filtration systems,” said Anderson.

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