A U.S. police force has confirmed that hackers have threatened to publish data on its police informants after their IT system was breached by cybercriminals in a ransomware attack.
The Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department says that it was hit by a large-scale data breach after hackers targeted its system, and is now facing extortion from the cybercriminals who say they will publish confidential data on their police informants.
It’s being reported that a cybercriminal gang nicknamed Babuk is responsible for the threats, and says it will publish the data on police informants if payment was not made within three-days.
The gang has claimed it has more than 250GB of police files in their possession that were downloaded from the Washington DC Metropolitan Police’s system.
The FBI has confirmed that it is investigating the data breach, and the use of ransomware by the cybercriminal gang to secure a payment from the police force and maintain the privacy of its police informants.
Earlier this week, the Washington DC police department issued a statement saying that it has been made “aware of unauthorised access on our server.”
“While we determine the full impact and continue to review activity, we have engaged the FBI to fully investigate this matter,” they added, while refusing to address the specific threat of data on police informants being published.
The AP is reporting that the Russian-based ransomware group, Babuk, boasted earlier this year that it had managed to access “a sufficient amount of information” from confidential police servers.
That report also states that 26 government agencies have been hit with ransomware attacks in 2021 alone; in sixteen of those cases, hackers continued to publish the data online.
The group posted a statement to their website saying that it had “downloaded a sufficient amount of information from your internal networks,” adding that if their demands are not met, “we will start to contact gangs in order to drain the informants.”
Hackers Threaten to Publish Data on Police Informants after Ransomware Attack
The gang also targeted a high-profile basketball team in the NBA competition, the Houston Rockets, and is said to have successfully infiltrated the organisation’s computer network. As a result of the breach, Babuk reportedly gained access to confidential player contracts and the financial information of the team.
A report from the BBC says that “screenshots said to have been posted by the group on the dark web and shared on social media appeared to suggest it had gained access to information on criminal gang activity and police intelligence reports.”
James Smith, head of the UK’s information security company, Bridewell Consulting has told the BBC that the threat to organisations will remain, even if hackers are paid their demands.
“With these types of attacks, the data has probably been stolen already, before it was encrypted, and the likelihood that the data will be sold or stored by the hacker is great,” he said.