"Our computer system got hacked," Sheriff Randy Mayfield of the Carroll County (AR) Sheriff's Department told reporters Monday afternoon.
Lt. Daniel Klatt, who is in charge of information technology for the department, said the department's system was hit Monday, Dec. 5, with what he called "ransomware," which locks all information on the system unless the victim pays a fee, reports the Harrison Daily Times.
In this case, the hackers, who he said were likely based in India or possibly even Russia, got into the management system. It holds all reports and bookings and other day-to-day operational data.
He was at home when he got a call that Monday night that the system had gone down. He logged into the system remotely and saw what was happening in time to shut down other parts of the system the hackers hadn't gotten into.
Still, about one-sixth of the department's data was encrypted before he could stop it.
Klatt stressed that no data was stolen and it all remained on the system. But the encryption meant no one could use it unless the ransom was paid. The hackers demanded three "bitcoin," the untraceable electronic monetary replacement that allows for such transactions. The value of three bitcoin that day was about $2,440.
Mayfield said he told Klatt to contact the state Attorney General and the FBI to find out what they could do. Although they weren't told to do so in so many words, Mayfield's office decided to pay the ransom.
Klatt said the department was hit with a program called "Dharma," which he described as "a newer flavor" of ransomware that only hit the market within the last couple of months.
He said there's no guarantee that it won't happen again, but the department is instituting new security measures in hopes of getting ahead of the hackers. Still, he said they try to stay ahead of the criminals, but often don't know what they're doing until they do it.