Criminals Demand 24 Bitcoins to Undo Newark City Hall Ransomware Attack

Popular organizations are often targeted by internet criminals for various reasons. Newark City Hall recently fell victim to a ransomware attack, which rendered multiple computers unusable. It appears the criminal behind this attack is looking for a 24 BTC payment, which is worth about US$30, 000 at current prices. For now, no payment has been made.

Unknown Ransomware Causes Major Havoc in Newark

When it comes to the Newark City Hall ransomware attack, there are still a few blanks that need to be filled in. The initial report mentioned an attack by an unknown “computer virus”, indicating the staffers on hand are not aware of what ransomware is and does. However, that message was later on updated to confirm the City hall computers are in fact held hostage by an undisclosed type of malware demanding a bitcoin payment.

It appears the ransomware infection came to be due to one – or more – staffer(s) opening an email attachment containing the malicious payload. Interestingly enough, it appears only a portion of City hall computers have been rendered useless, whereas others are just fine. Among the encrypted files are documents, pictures, and any other type of information that may be used in day-to-day City hall operations.

As one would expect, this ransomware attack has caused a few issues for Newark City Hall staffers right now. Quite a few services have been disrupted by this attack, and it remains somewhat unclear when everything will go back to normal. Since no one has disclosed which type of ransomware is responsible for the attack, it seems likely we have to wait for more information until the official investigation concludes. We do know all locked files are encrypted with RSA-2048 encryption, indicating this is a rather sophisticated form of malware.

One thing that does stand out is how the criminals responsible for this attack are not content with a small bitcoin payment. In the instructions left behind by the ransomware, it mentions how every computer is subject to a 1.7 bitcoin fee. However, it is also possible to restore access to all machines in one go, assuming Newark City hall pays a 24 bitcoin ransom. That is quite a steep amount, to say the least.

It is not the first time public organizations and institutions are hit by a ransomware attack that could cost them tens of thousands of Dollars. Various hospitals suffered from similar attacks last year, all of which revolved around criminals demanding a steep amount of bitcoin to be paid. Some hospitals successfully did so, whereas others decided to restore encrypted data from previous backups.

For the time being, it remains to be seen if Newark City hall will pay the 24 bitcoin ransom or not. Paying this sum is never the best course of action, although it may be the only way to ensure data can be accessed once again in the future. Then again, business should invest in proper cyber security measures first and foremost, as that would prevent ransomware attacks like these from being successful.

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