Alabama County Reportedly Paid $37,000 in ‘Ransom’ After Cyberattack

(CN) – Montgomery County, Ala., officials were reportedly forced to pay hackers a $37,000 ransom over the weekend in order to retrieve county data that had been stolen in a cyberattack a week ago.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the county paid the ransom in two installments, with the first being made on Saturday, followed by the second on Sunday.

The county reportedly paid the ransom request of nine Bitcoins after being unable to retrieve the data on its own.

“We were not able to get to the data like we thought we could,” Montgomery County Chief IT Officer Lou Ialacci told the newspaper.

Bitcoin is an online currency that was created anonymously in 2009 and remains largely unregulated. The Montgomery County Commission reportedly authorized the funds in an emergency session on Friday.

It was local NBC affiliate WSFA that originally reported how much was paid.

The cyberattack occurred Sept. 18, shutting down government computers within the Montgomery County Commission, the Probate Office and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Among the services affected were vehicle registration and the issuance of marriage and business licenses.

Commission Chairman Elton Dean called the incident “an unfortunate situation” but said the commission “had to do what we thought we needed to do.”

“In the future, we are going to take precautionary measures to be protected,” Dean told the Montgomery Advertiser. “It happens all over. It’s just unfortunate that it happened to us.”

Following the attack, Ialacci told WSFA that the county intends to upgrade its backup systems and “be a lot more stringent than before.”

Ialacci also said that no personal information had been compromised in the attack.

Earlier this year, a string of ransomware attacks affected businesses all across the globe, including in more than 150 countries.

According to a study by IBM, the rate of ransomware embedded in spam jumped dramatically in 2016, rising from just 0.6 percent in 2015 to nearly 40 percent.

For the first three months of 2016, the FBI has estimated that more than $209 million had been paid in ransomware attacks.

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