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Massachusetts school district pays $10,000 in bitcoin ransom to computer hackers

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iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — Hackers infiltrated a small Massachusetts city’s school computers, then swiped the data only to return it for $10,000 in bitcoin.

The Leominster Public Schools were broadsided when they learned of the extortion payment to regain possession of their pilfered data and email.

Paula Deacon, superintendent of the school, reached out to Leominster Interim Police Chief Michael Goldman for advice.

“I told her what I knew: There are three ways to deal with cybersecurity,” Goldman told ABC News. “One, don’t get hacked by being properly protected. If you do get hacked restore with uninfected backups.”

But Leominster Schools apparently lacked adequate contingencies for the April 14 cyber attack.

“They didn’t have a clean offsite backup,” Goldman said, adding that the school was crippled with inefficient systems to ward off the notorious cyber attack known as “Wannacry.”

“This happened and the school system was not locked down as they should have been,” he said. “There are a lot of systems that have been subjected to this.”

The ransomware was first unleashed a year ago. It holds hostage any computer assets until a ransom is remitted or risk the files getting eradicated. So far, “WannaCry” has infected hundreds of thousands of computer systems in over 150 countries.

These particular hackers dangling the Leominster school system’s coveted data, the chief recalled, gave an ultimatum to the school stating, “if you want your data back, you pay.”

Over a week after being strong-armed by the cyber hackers, Deacon admitted in a statement that “a lock” that was placed on the school’s system was removed after “a negotiated ransom was agreed upon.”

She wrote that the system “paid through a bitcoin system” and were now waiting for the system to be “fully restored.”

As of Tuesday, most of the keys were returned to the school’s possession, Goldman assured.

These sort of issues are “beyond law enforcement,” Goldman explained. While the FBI was notified, in addition to the computer company that supplied the school, there was no real viable option but to pay up, he added.

“They would have had to wipe the servers and reconstruct them from the beginning,” Goldman said. “The cost to do that would have exceeded the ransom.”

Goldman explained that the incident wasn’t necessarily a direct attack at Leominster, but it was going after any systems — especially outdated software used by some municipalities and business — with vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

However, Deacon relenting to the hackers’ demands has angered some in the community who learned their taxpayer dollars were used to pay off the ransom.

“It’s distasteful, and it’s been upsetting with some consternation in the community that the school shouldn’t be using funds this way,” Goldman said. “That is people who are uneducated in this type of thing.”

Still, Goldman bluntly recounted what he said to the school and city administrators to learn from the cyber lapse.

“You got caught with your pants down,” he said. “Pull them up and put a new belt on. Pay it, which they did, and put safeguards in place to lessen the liability.”

In fact, Goldman says he’s confident that the measures Leominster Public Schools have taken to help limit their liability should they be attacked, again, are sufficient.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News


Counterfeit $20 bills found at Yorktown bank

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By Advocate Staff Report A Yorktown bank has had several counterfeit $20 bills come through in recent weeks, according to a DeWitt County Sheriff’s Office news release. …read more

Source:: Lavaca County – Victoria Advocate


Pa. Attorney general wants some manslaughter charges restored in pledge's hazing death

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Courtesy Piazza Family(NEW YORK) — Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that he wants a judge to restore involuntary manslaughter charges against five fraternity brothers he claims had a hand in last year’s hazing death of Penn State fraternity pledge Tim Piazza.

Piazza was a 19-year-old sophomore from Lebanon, New Jersey, who died after consuming an excessive amount of alcohol and then falling down stairs at the Beta Theta Pi house on Feb. 2, 2017.

In March, a Pennsylvania judge, citing a lack of evidence, dismissed involuntary manslaughter and assault charges that were originally filed against some of the fraternity members.

Shapiro summed up involuntary manslaughter as “a negligent homicide.”

He went on to add that someone is guilty of involuntary manslaughter “when a direct result of doing an unlawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner — or in doing a lawful act in a grossly negligent manner — causes the death of a person.”

Shapiro said evidence for involuntary manslaughter was “clearly met” for five fraternity members, but said that nobody in the fraternity should be charged with aggravated assault.

“Our review of the evidence and Pennsylvania law led us to the conclusion that while the conduct alone constituted crimes for which we are vigorously pursuing justice the more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter is appropriate only for individuals who we can prove met all three prongs,” he said.

The three prongs, he said, involve participating in the drinking gauntlet, knowing about Piazza’s fall and failing to render aid.

“They must be held accountable for their individual actions, their respective roles in planning that fateful night, in failing to render aid and in leaving Tim to die in their fraternity house,” Shapiro said. “We are committed to holding every responsible individual accountable now in a court of law for their actions at Beta Theta Pi on that night in February 2017.”

Separately, Shapiro announced he had dropped involuntary manslaughter charges against five others.

Penn State has since barred the fraternity from its campus.

Shapiro said he’s also looking to reinstate charges of reckless endangerment against six defendants, hazing against two and conspiracy against eight, all charges that were thrown out earlier.

Altogether, 26 defendants are facing charges related to Piazza’s death.

Penn State University said in a statement that it conducted its own probe into Piazza’s death and found that some students had violated the school’s Student Code of Conduct. Those students were either expelled or placed on probation, the university said.

“While this criminal process continues, we should not lose sight of the tragic loss of a student, Timothy Piazza,” Penn State said in a statement. “We must all do everything we can to help prevent future tragedies. Penn State remains committed to continue implementing our aggressive measures, and to working with others to affect the lasting change required.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News


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