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Government in Indiana pays up after ransomware stifles operations

Of all the various forms of malware from which a person or organization can suffer, ransomware is likely the worst. It doesn’t just hijack a machine to engage in denial of service attacks, or even simply damage data and cause machines to become erratic and unreliable. No, ransomware is a particularly brazen form of malware.

Ransomware doesn’t just dole out random damage to whomever a hacker can reach with a virus or other nefarious code. It’s also not merely taking over a machine in the background and using it as a bot in denial of service attacks — those rely on keeping the infection invisible so that they can run without the user knowing it and doing something in response. As the county government in Madison County, Indiana, discovered last week, ransomware is a very in-your-face attack with very real and, quite often, unavoidable consequences, as Ars Technica reports.

The Madison County government was the victim of a ransomware attack that was spread throughout the county and forced almost all county services to shut down. The attack carried on into the weekend, and the government’s leadership was forced to concede to the demands of criminals running the ransomware operation.

The decision was clearly a simple dollars and cents calculation. As County Commissioner John Richwine put it: “We’re following the directions of our insurance carrier.” Presumably, the insurer had run the numbers and decided that whatever the ransom was — the county government did not disclose the amount — it was less than the potential costs from ongoing disruptions to services and the impact on equipment.

Fortunately, emergency services and the county’s voting systems were not affected. The county was forced to close the courts and a number of offices, with employees required to take personal time or use up their vacations due to lack of work. Madison County officials did not respond to requests for more information, likely because the officials would rather just put the episode behind them and move on with providing services to their constituents.

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