GIVEN THE POLICE'S limited effectiveness when it comes to dealing with online crime, it's perhaps unsurprising that the UK Police Federation has been hit by a malware attack.
The organisation represents 119,000 police officers across England and Wales, and revealed it had been hit by ransomware in a statement on Twitter, complete with the thoroughly uncatchy #PFEWCyberAttack hashtag. The attack was reported on March 11, within the three days required under European law.
It sounds like a typical ransomware strike, where data is encrypted and then held to ransom. The organisation revealed that a number of databases and email systems were encrypted, and backup data was also deleted. "There is no evidence at this stage that any data was extracted from our systems but this cannot be discounted," they added.
The Police Federation doesn't believe this to be a targeted attack, and just a lucky hit from the standard scattergun pattern that ransomware attacks tend to follow.
David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab agrees with this analysis: "As with most ransomware attacks, the attack on the Police Federation of England seems to be the result of random, speculative activity, rather than a targeted attack," he said. "The motive is probably to extort money rather than steal data."
The most important thing, he added is to have a "robust backup policy" - which, uh, it seems like the Police Federation didn't. But otherwise, they seem to have handled it well enough. "It looks like, in this instance, The Police Federation has absolutely done the right thing in preventing the further spread of the ransomware and notifying the relevant authorities in a timely manner," Emm said.
Hopefully, somewhere in the Police Federation, a maverick cop will now make it his or her life's work to track down the ransomware criminals, even if it means playing fast and loose with the rules. That's an ITV crime drama we just can't wait to see. µ
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