D.C. police department hit with ransomware

Washington, D.C., police surveillance cameras were infected with ransomware, but the city’s tech department avoided paying.
(Getty Images)

Just eight days before the inauguration, storage devices containing data from Washington, D.C., police surveillance cameras were compromised with ransomware, the city’s tech department confirmed to StateScoop.

The Office of the Chief Technology Officer, lead by CTO Archana Vemulapalli, confirmed a story from the Washington Post announcing the attack. Vemulapalli told The Post the city paid no ransom, took the infected devices offline, removed the software and restarted the system at each location. Police cameras were unable to record between Jan. 12 and Jan. 15.

Vemulapalli told The Post that an investigation into who was behind the hack continues, and that the intrusion was “localized” and did not extend to other devices in the city’s environment.

The police department first reported malfunctioning cameras at four sites and reported it to OCTO, which then found two forms of ransomware in the four devices. The discovery prompted a citywide sweep of the network, where Vemulapalli told The Post they found more infected sites. All in all, the cyberattack affected 123 of 187 video recorders in a closed-circuit TV system for public spaces across the city, officials told The Post.


The Washington, D.C., ransomware attack is another in a string of attacks on public sector entities. Late last year, attackers used ransomware to compromise the systems of San Francisco’s transit agency — prompting U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., to raise concerns about D.C.’s own metropolitan transit agency’s cybersecurity efforts.

Earlier in 2016, a ransomware attack forced a county in Indiana to pay a $21,000 ransom, as well as invest more than $200,000 in beefing up its department and security.

The Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center reported last year that ransomware is the organization’s — which operates out of the Center for Internet Security and is funded by the Department of Homeland Security — “number one type of malware right now.”

Jake Williams

Written by Jake Williams

Jake Williams is a Staff Reporter for FedScoop and StateScoop. At StateScoop, he covers the information technology issues and events at state and local governments across the nation. In the past, he has covered the United States Postal Service, the White House, Congress, cabinet-level departments and emerging technologies in the unmanned aircraft systems field for FedScoop. Before FedScoop, Jake was a contributing writer for Campaigns & Elections magazine. He has had work published in the Huffington Post and several regional newspapers and websites in Pennsylvania. A northeastern Pennsylvania native, Jake graduated magna cum laude from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, or IUP, in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in political science. At IUP, Jake was the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Penn, and the president of the university chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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