FBI Works to Counter the Effects of Virgin Island PD Hack

The April ransomware attack targeted the police department’s servers that house internal affairs records and citizen complaints, leaving many files corrupted. Experts with the FBI are working to unencrypt these files.

by Suzanne Carlson, The Virgin Islands Daily News / June 27, 2019
Shutterstock/Illus_man

(TNS) — The FBI is working to help V.I. Police deal with the effects of a ransomware cyberattack that occurred in April, according to acting Police Commissioner Jason Marsh.

“A lot of our files got corrupted, so we did notify the FBI and we are working with them to try to unencrypt the files that we can, ” Marsh said Tuesday.

Ransomware attacks are designed to hold digital information hostage until the individual being targeted pays a ransom to have the files restored.

Marsh said that the department has not identified the source of the attack and did not pay any form of ransom. Instead, FBI experts are attempting to unencrypt the affected files.

Marsh said the attack targeted the department’s servers that house internal affairs records and citizen complaints, and while the files were encrypted, none were actually stolen.

“Once we realized what occurred, we took everything offline so no one’s personal information was compromised,” Marsh said.

Other cities have recently been hit by similar ransomware attacks, including Baltimore and Atlanta, and Marsh said it’s the first time such an attack has targeted the V.I. Police Department.

Last week, according to the Associated Press, Riviera Beach, Fla., agreed to pay $600,000 in ransom to hackers who took over its computer system. Baltimore, took the same path the Virgin Islands is taking, refusing to pay hackers $76,000 in an attack last month.

According to the FBI, more 1,493 ransomware attacks were reported last year with victims paying $3.6 million to hackers. Some of those attacks were against individuals.

“Right now, we’re trying to ensure our infrastructure is set up so we won’t lose information,” Marsh said.

The department acknowledged the attack in documents filed in U.S. District Court related to the ongoing federal consent decree designed to ensure that officers do not use excessive force.

While the department is complying with the terms of that decree, the cyberattack has hindered those efforts, according to court records.

“Over this reporting period, computer related challenges, starting from April 20, 2019, have caused some setbacks,” according to a quarterly report filed by attorneys representing the police department.

The department was unable to access “Blue Team” and “IAPRO” programs “for several weeks due to a ransomware cyberattack that compromised VIPD’s network and servers,” according to the report.

The department is working to complete the work delayed by the cyberattack and “a new centralized version of IAPRO has been installed for the territory,” and is expected to be accessible to all department members outside of Internal Affairs by July 8.

“The backups of the IAPRO system were corrupted and VIPD is working with the FBI to recover the information,” according to the report. “The VIPD is working diligently to ensure that the system is fully operational and accessible.”

©2019 The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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