Ransomware disrupts Washington DC's CCTV system

Ransomware attacks target various types of systems and businesses and are unlikely to stop

About 70 percent of the cameras hooked up to the police's closed-circuit TV (CCTV) system in Washington, D.C., were reportedly unable to record footage for several days before President Trump's inauguration due to a ransomware attack.

The attack affected 123 of the 187 network video recorders that form the city's CCTV system, the Washington Post reported Saturday. Each of these devices is used to store video footage captured by up to four cameras installed in public spaces.

The incident occurred on Jan. 12, eight days before the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, and it took three days to restore the system. The city refused to pay the ransom and sent teams at each site to take the affected devices offline, replace their software and restart them, according to the newspaper.

The incident serves to show the dangers associated with the increasing number of ransomware attacks that target various types of systems and organizations. Last year similar attacks disrupted the IT systems at several hospitals across the U.S. and in November ransomware was used to encrypted data on about 900 systems at San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency.

That incident did not affect the transit service, but the agency had to temporarily open gates and provide free transport to passengers. It's probably only a matter of time until ransomware attacks end up endangering human lives, as IT disruptions in hospitals, public transport services, water utilities and other critical infrastructure providers can have very serious consequences.

The impact to a company's business can also be serious and can lead to loss of customers, especially if such an incident happens during peak season. Earlier this month a four-star hotel in the Austrian Alps had its reservation, electronic key and cash desk systems affected by ransomware. This was the fourth time that the hotel was hit by cybercriminals and the incident left it unable to program new key cards, Austrian news site The Local reported Saturday.

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Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
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