Calif. police computer network hobbled by ransomware attack
The breach has disabled patrol vehicle laptops, forcing officers to write down details of calls they receive from dispatch
By Kevin Valine
The Modesto Bee
MODESTO, Calif. — The Modesto police department has been hacked in recent days by ransomware, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the incident told The Bee late Wednesday.
While the extent of the damage is not fully known, the cybersecurity breach has disabled patrol vehicle laptops, causing officers to resort to “old school policing.” Since the attack, officers must write down the details of the calls they receive from dispatch rather than receiving them through electronic communication.
The Bee interviewed four sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Modesto officials would not confirm the attack Wednesday after but issued a statement Wednesday afternoon after The Bee inquired about the matter. The city is conducting an investigation with leading cybersecurity experts after it “recently detected suspicious activity on (its) digital network,” according to the statement.
Modesto is “experiencing limited connectivity to some systems. Our ability to facilitate city services including emergency service and answer 911 calls is fully operational. We thank our residents for their patience and understanding,” according to the statement.
Modesto said in its statement that it “strategically disconnected portions of (its) network out of an abundance of caution.”
City spokesman Andrew Gonzales said the city would provide no additional information Wednesday other than what was in its statement. Gonzales also declined to comment late Wednesday evening.. But he did say earlier in the day that Modesto would provide additional information at a later date.
One of the sources said Modesto officers can be heard on police scanners telling dispatch when they are transporting suspects to jail or asking for their next call after completing their current one. These communications had been done by computer before the attack.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software or malware that hackers use to infect and hobble a computer or computer network until a ransom is paid or other demands are met.
It’s become a growing problem for law enforcement across the nation. NBC News reported last month that the Bay Area Rapid Transit police department had been a victim, and the hackers posted an “enormous trove of sensitive files to the internet” after authorities apparently refused to meet the hackers’ demands.
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