WESTLAKE, Ohio (WJW)– The FOX 8 I-Team found hackers hit the Westlake Police Department and they even made some video evidence disappear.
Westlake police confirmed that late last year, hackers took down the department’s computer network and wiped out all video recorded by patrol car cameras before mid-November.
Cpt. Gerald Vogel told us Westlake police got hit by ransomware, a virus often tied to a demand for payment. He said the department never got a demand, but the ransomware froze police computers, and the attack deleted video. Some of that video could still be needed for court cases.
“We just had to go archaic, and start using pen and paper the way we used to,” Vogel said. The department had to rebuild its computer network. “Our IT people had to work for a number of days non-stop to get us back up and running fully.”
Think of how many people Westlake police deal with every day including arresting suspects, writing tickets and taking reports from people at the police station. So, we wondered about your personal information. Police said they don’t believe the hackers got to anything like that.
It ‘s certainly not the first time a local government agency has been hit by hackers. We recently found hackers got into Cuyahoga County computers.
Last year, hackers got into computers for the Mansfield City Schools and that district hired a company offering services in “ransomware negotiation and payment.”
In 2019, the I-Team exposed how ransomware infected some computers at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
“You can’t plan for every contingency, but you can protect yourself,” Vogel said.
He pointed out Westlake police didn’t pay anything to hackers, but the ransomware still came with a cost. The police department had to reset the computer system, build in security so the same problem doesn’t happen again and officers lost video that can never be recovered.
Westlake police have not been able to identify any suspects.
They are sharing what they learned in this experience with other police departments.