25 Investigates: City of Lawrence hit with significant ransomware attack

LAWRENCE, Mass. — Hackers hit the city of Lawrence with a ransomware attack that disabled major computer systems, 25 Investigates has learned. Sources tell investigative reporter Ted Daniel the city is “arranging payment” to regain control.

The online attack was initiated sometime over the weekend. A source familiar with the situation said cybercriminals took control of the computers at the fire and police departments, as well as City Hall.

According to a message posted on the mayor’s Facebook page, “phone and email systems are temporarily down,” because of a “temporary technological disruption.”

The message does not mention the ransomware attack. Cybercriminals seek ransom money – typically Bitcoin – in exchange for returning control of computer systems, said Sherrod DeGrippo, the senior director of threat research and detection at Proofpoint.

“These ransomware actors want to maintain that if you pay, you get back in business quickly, and they’ve been able to keep up that reputation, that when an organization pays, the files are released and they’re good to go back in operation once again,” DeGrippo said.

Ransomware has been a big problem for businesses and government. DeGrippo said victims often end up just paying the ransom.

A source tells 25 Investigates the city is working with the FBI. We contacted the FBI Boston office and the Lawrence Police Department, but they were unable to provide comment. We also made several attempts to reach the mayor of Lawrence but did not get a response by deadline.

Boston 25 News has been chronicling problems with ransomware attacks for years.  Here’s another of our previous reports.

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