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Suspected Drug Dealers Walk Free After Ransomware Attack

A ransomware attack that crippled a police department in Florida has resulted in at least six suspected drug dealers walking free.

Hackers struck the city of Stuart (pop. 16,300), around one hundred miles north of Miami, in April 2019. Its police department was among the worst affected by the attack, resulting in investigators being unable to access crucial case files after the city refused to pay a $300,000 Bitcoin ransom.

As a result, numerous narcotics cases were unable to be pursued by the State Attorney's Office, after around one-and-a-half year's worth of digital evidence was lost.

"Photos and videos ... some of the cases had to be dropped," said Det. Sgt. Mike Gerwan of the Stuart Police Department, speaking to WPTV.

This included 28 offences - ranging from possession of cocaine and meth, manufacturing, selling, or delivering narcotics, and illegal use of a two-way communication device - against the six defendants.

Investigators revealed that a spear phishing attack released the Ryuk ransomware, which remained in the city's system for around two months before officials received a ransom note from the attackers.

In the wake of the attack the city is training its employees to identify phishing emails and the police department has changed its evidence storing methods.

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