BOSTON — School closures, car inspections stalled and emergency services communications affected; those are some of the disruptions ransomware attacks have caused in Massachusetts in recent weeks.
25 Investigates examined who is behind these attacks and whether enough is being done to thwart future incidents.
As investigative reporter Ted Daniel found, business has been good for these digital extortionists. Ransomware attacks in the U.S. have increased by 300% in the past nine months, in part because more people are working remotely.
Hackers form Evil Corp, a Russian cybercrimes organization, are responsible for ransomware attacks in 11 states, including Massachusetts, according to the Department of Justice.
Videos on social media show Evil Corp members enjoying a lavish lifestyle, including fast cars and exotic pets, presumably funded with ill-gotten money.
The FBI says a different group of Russian hackers is behind recent cyberattacks that shut down the Colonial gas pipeline. The pipeline moves nearly half the fuel used on the eastern seaboard. And you may be paying more at the pump because of it.
“The nature of these attacks does seem to be changing,” said Jane Fountain, a cybersecurity expert and professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s College of Information and Computer Sciences.
Fountain said hackers are demanding higher ransoms and stealing private data even when the ransom is paid. That data can include credit card numbers, medical records and social security numbers.
“Many criminals realize that they can try selling that data on the black market, all over the world. So they can attack operations, as well as encrypting data,” she said.
25 Investigates was the first to report that hackers took down the computer network at Lawrence City Hall last month.
Haverhill Public Schools was simultaneously dealing with a ransomware attack of its own.
Ransoms have also been demanded from or paid by the vendor that hosts the Registry of Motor Vehicles inspection network. That security failure cost repair shops thousands and temporarily allowed potentially unsafe cars on the road.
The list of ransomware attacks in Massachusetts includes: City of New Bedford, Tewksbury…