DC police cameras crippled by ransomware before inauguration

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Closed-circuit television cameras such as these were targeted by hackers prior to the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. (Photo Credit: Adrian Pingstone)

Police cameras in the District of Columbia were compromised for several days prior to Trump’s inauguration, according to a Jan. 27 report by Clarence Williams in The Washington Post.

Ransomware infected 70 percent of storage devices for D.C. police surveillance camera data, leaving 123 out of 187 network video recorders unable to record from Jan. 12-15. However, Brian Ebert, a Secret Service official, said the hacking incident did not jeopardize public safety or the critical infrastructure of the inauguration, which was prepared against malicious cyber actors for more than nine months in advance.

The infiltration of the closed-circuit TV system is said to have been a localized extortion attempt, but no ransom was paid and the CCTV network was successfully quarantined, the cameras’ software wiped, reinstalled and rebooted.

“There was no access from these devices into our environment,” Archana Vemulapalli, the city’s chief technology officer, said.

“By now, it should be well understood that having functioning backups and a clear, efficient restore process are the best defenses against ransomware,” Tim Erlin, senior director of IT security and risk strategy for advanced threat, cybersecurity and compliance solutions company Tripwire said in a statement following the incident report.

“If you’re in a position where you have to pay the ransom, you were simply unprepared for the reality of connected computing today. Security doesn’t just happen; it has to be designed into the system … Embedded and purpose-built devices are often built with less consideration for unexpected inputs and can be more vulnerable to attacks.”

No source for the cyber intrusion has been identified.