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Post Falls Police Department says ‘no sensitive data’ compromised in cyberattack

UPDATED: Thu., June 4, 2020

The city of Post Falls is seen in January 2020. The Post Falls Police Department was the target of a cyberattack that disrupted its computer systems in May but says “no sensitive data appears to be compromised.” (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The city of Post Falls is seen in January 2020. The Post Falls Police Department was the target of a cyberattack that disrupted its computer systems in May but says “no sensitive data appears to be compromised.” (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The Post Falls Police Department was the target of a cyberattack that disrupted its computer systems but says “no sensitive data appears to be compromised.”

The department issued a news release about the attack on Thursday after The Spokesman-Review received a tip and inquired about it on Wednesday.

The department said that on May 23 it “experienced a data security event causing disruption to certain internal department systems including digital media, email and others.”

Chief Pat Knight said because of the attack, he and others in the department have been unable to use their official email addresses.

That, and the content of the news release, suggest the hacking involved the use of ransomware. Hackers commonly use ransomware to compromise files and blackmail organizations for money, often in the form of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.

In October 2019, CNN reported that 140 local governments, police stations and hospitals had been held hostage in ransomware attacks during the previous 10 months.

A Spokane-based medical practice, Columbia Surgical Specialists, paid hackers nearly $15,000 last year after they used ransomware to compromise potentially thousands of patient records.

Knight said multiple agencies, including a federal law enforcement agency, are investigating the attack on the Post Falls Police Department, which he described as a “forced entry” into the department’s computer systems. He said he couldn’t discuss the situation further.

“At no point was the ability of the police department to provide police protection to the community compromised,” the department said in the news release.

“The 911 system is fully functional along with our dispatch and patrol systems. We are working around the clock with assistance from computer forensic specialists to investigate the root cause of this event and to bring the internal systems back online in a safe and secure manner.”

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