A listing about a government victim disappeared from LockBit’s site. But why? (UPDATE1)

Update of March 28: It seems LockBit re-listed WCSO last night on their leak site and has dumped data from them, although the files do not seem to be downloading at this time.

When an entity has been the victim of a cyberattack, they’d be smart not to discuss the attack via their email system or voice system if those systems could be compromised and the attackers could be monitoring them.

But you’d think that there would be some records made involving incident response, such as notes or resolutions on whether the entity will pay a ransom demand or whom they are notifying, etc.  Could all records be on an external counsel’s server so as to protect it from monitoring and perhaps discovery in any litigation?  Perhaps.

But not any records at all? DataBreaches is aware of districts and entities that have ordered their consultants not to put any reports in writing because they might be discoverable, but to maintain no records at all?

Earlier this year, Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) in Chipley, Florida was the victim of a ransomware attack that disrupted the office for two weeks. LockBit claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened to leak data including information on hundreds of employees if WCSO didn’t pay up.  But Florida law prohibits the payment of ransom, and Sheriff Crews stated publicly that no ransom would be paid.

Instead of LockBit leaking the data as threatened, the entire listing for WCSO disappeared from the leak site at some point. The removal was first brought to DataBreaches’ attention by Brett Callow of Emsisoft.

Typically, removal only happens if the victim pays a ransom.  But Sheriff Crews had said no ransom would be paid, so why was the listing removed?

DataBreaches filed a public records request with WCSO. The following are the requests and WCSO’s responses:

  • Request: Sheriff Crews said the department or county would not pay any ransom demands. I am requesting copies of any correspondence concerning that decision.

WCSO’s response: Reference to your first request- no written or electronic correspondence exists. 

  • Request: Records showing what payments the WCSO or the county made as part  of their response to the cyberattack.

WCSO’s response: Please see the attached invoices.

Two attached invoices were for IT and database recovery services and totalled less than $20,000.

  • Request: Sheriff Crews reportedly requested $140,000 for additional budget for cybersecurity. There was to be a special meeting to consider that request. I am seeking any record(s) that itemizes or shows exactly to  whom $140,000 would be paid to, and for what.

WCSO’s response: Reference to your request to see who the additional budget allocation would go to- that will be “Inspired Technologies”. 

Inspired Technologies was one of the two firms paid as part of incident response. Their invoice for emergency IT and consulting services had been for $12,500.00.

  • Request: Any correspondence relating to the removal of WCSO files from  LockBit’s darkweb leak site.

WCSO’s response: Reference to the correspondence relating to the removal of WCSO files- no written or electronic correspondence exists.

Were there other records that DataBreaches failed to obtain because of wording of the requests? WCSO had not sought any clarification before responding to the requests.

In the absence of any records, we are left with at least three possible explanations for the removal of WCSO’s listing from LockBit’s site:

  1. WCSO paid ransom, despite publicly saying they wouldn’t.
  2. LockBit suddenly found God and decided to be nice and remove the listing.
  3. LockBit removed the listing because the data was sold privately.

(Update: the listing was restored after a mysterious disappearance).

LockBit never replied to an inquiry about the removal.

Did WCSO ever notify everyone whose data had allegedly been exfiltrated? DataBreaches does not know that, either.

If anyone has more information on this incident, please contact this site.

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