Senators Delaware Democrat Tom Caper and Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson believe that intelligence agencies might have paid hackers to unlock the personal files of lawmakers. The two members of the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs are now demanding to know whether or not government computers are secure against ransomware.
The senators sent a pair of open letters to the Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The DHS has been helping both citizens and businesses prevent and respond to infections of ransomware.
Caper and Johnson stated in the letter that they want to know whether or not any machines owned by the DHS have been infected with ransomware. And if they have indeed been infected, the Senate members want to know if any hackers had been paid to regain access to the system.
The open letter asks, “Over the past 12 months, how many instances of ransomware has DHS been made aware of in federal agencies' computers? In which agencies and on what systems was the ransomware located and what was the result? Is DHS aware of instances in which federal agencies have paid ransoms to remove ransomware?"
Infections of ransomware, such as the Cryptowall and Cryptolocker infections, function by encrypting the contents of the hard drive of the victim’s computer. It is then demanded that a payment be provided before the files will be decrypted. The payment is usually sent through a bitcoin transfer or another method that is difficult to trace.
It is unknown as to whether or not the DHS and the FBI have been infected with ransomware infections in the past. However, many local police agencies have been previously infected, and they have even paid the hackers to allow them to once again access their files.