Along with increased interest in cryptocurrencies comes an increase in related scams, thefts, and ransoms. 2018 has seen its fair share of these situations, with one currently evolving in Canada.
Located in beautiful Simcoe County, Midland is a small community home to under 20,000 people. The surrounding area is popular for cottagers looking to take in Ontario’s natural beauty. It isn’t the type of town one would expect to be held ransom for any means. Unfortunately, this is the situation they find themselves in.
September 1st – Midland’s computer services were infected with ransomware. Although immediate action was taken, various systems were essentially seized by criminals. To regain access to town systems, Midland was instructed to pay an undisclosed ransom in Bitcoin.
September 6th – After days of working to restore functionality to the town services, it was announced that Midland was in the process of ceding to the demands of the criminals. Wheels were in motion to pay the ransom.
September 11th – Midland reports the process is on-going, and that the town has an insurance policy covering situation like this. Town council stated, “The Town of Midland team has been working diligently to ensure that our systems return to normal function as soon as possible. We have made significant progress and we will be providing a full update on the status in the coming days.”
Throughout this saga, Midland has assured residents that essential services have not been affected, and there have been no resident privacy breaches.
Roughly 4 months prior to the events in Midland, neighbouring town Wasaga underwent similar events. At the time, Wasaga town services were infected with ransomware. Although not paid in BTC, the town decided that it would be more beneficial to simply pay a ransom of $35,000 than continue to stand their ground.
This decision was made after devoting $210,000 to recovery efforts. After expert consultation, it was determined that additional hundreds of thousands were needed to remedy the situation. The $35,000 being demanded was much more enticing.
Perhaps by setting this precedent, neighbouring areas have adopted a similar train of thought when dealing with similar situations.
Interestingly, these ransom attacks are occurring in smaller communities. While the sums being demanded are not in the millions, it would appear there is a higher likelihood of a payout to criminals.
While a large city such as Toronto can stand its ground, and absorb the cost of not paying the ransom, these small communities do not have that luxury. With small, restrictive budgets, the options are much more limited.
Hopefully the events that transpired in Simcoe county in 2018 serve as a warning to the rest of Canada. Our reliance on computer services is growing every day. Ensure system protections are thorough. At the very least, have the foresight to pay for insurance similar to Midland.