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NY village makes ransom payments to keep computers running

Albany: A village in central New York made ransom payments of USD 300 and USD 500 last year to keep its computers running after two official-looking emails released malware throughout its system, state auditors said.

The comptroller’s office, which has audited 100 municipal computer systems the past three years, said Ilion’s experience should warn others of the growing threat, which can infiltrate computers and make them inaccessible. The big problem for the village of 8,000 was its financial software.

“The payroll, village accounting systems, they were all locked up,” Mayor Terry Leonard said.

Other agencies across the country have also dealt with the malicious software known as ransomware.

In Maine this year, Lincoln County sheriff’s office computers were infected and held hostage. Sheriff Todd Brackett said after several attempts to retrieve the records, his agency paid a ransom of about USD 300 and the FBI helped track the payment to a Swiss bank account but failed to identify the hackers.

In suburban Chicago, the Midlothian village police paid a USD 500 ransom in bitcoin, a digital currency that’s virtually untraceable, to get its files unencrypted.

Ilion officials have endorsed new security steps and trained staff last year specifically on looking out for suspicious emails. They have been working with the auditors who identified various security gaps. They haven’t had another attack since, Leonard said.