A cyber-attack has been carried out against the US state of Sacremento’s transport authority, demanding a ransom of one Bitcoin – the digital currency that was worth £8,000 during last week's attack. Now resolved, without Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT) paying the ransom, hackers made contact with the operator after removing files, programmes and data, forcing the closure of its computer systems that process credit card payments.
More than 30 million of SacRT’s 100 million files were deleted by the hackers, but despite this SacRT reported that no personal data was compromised. The operator made a statement that it was able to reinstate its payment systems a day after the attack, thanks to its backup files that are updated on a daily basis.
The preference among cyber criminals of using digital currencies as a form of ransom continues to grow, owing to the fact they are decentralised, don't exist in the physical world and are impossible to counterfeit. Like physical currencies, there are only a limited number of Bitcoins (21 million) however they can be divided up to eight decimal points, with smaller units also possible.
Speaking shortly after SacRT’s attack to The Epoch Times, a deputy general manager from the operator, Mark Lonergan, said it took all its systems offline. “That is how we know no data exited; this was about destruction. We actually had the hackers get into our system, and systematically start erasing programs and data.”
The hackers altered SacRT to their presence by sending a message with its demands for the payment of one Bitcoin. “I’m sorry to modify the home page, I’m good hacker, I just want to help you fix these vulnerability.”
SacRT kept the public up to date with a series of tweets throughout the problems clarifying that apps, services would be brought back online once they had been made safe.
Also known as cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin is one of at least 1,300 varieties available – all of which are volatile and subject to wild fluctuations in price. In May this year, Bitcoin’s stock tumbled by around £150 after a series of attacks against more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries froze-out data related to the currency, directly affecting its value.
In the same month, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) became the victim of a different ransomware called WannaCry, which encrypted computer files and demanded payment before they were unlocked. As a result of the attack, which it was believed to be random rather than targeted against the NHS, led to the cancellation of more than 2,500 appointments.