May 25, 2023

Hackers threaten to release Washington County Sheriff's Office personal data

by: Emma Riley

Posted: Mar 20, 2023 / 04:39 PM CDT

Updated: Mar 20, 2023 / 07:07 PM CDT

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Hackers are threatening the Washington County Sheriff's office with the release of personal data about hundreds of employees.

As News 13 first told you last month the Washington County Sheriff's Office was hacked by an unknown group. Sheriff Kevin Crews believed the attack originated in Russia and it nearly shut down all of his operations.

The hackers have since threatened to release the personal data of more than five hundred Washington County Sheriff's Office current and former employees. The data is supposed to be leaked today.

Hackers were demanding a ransom, which the sheriff's office refused to pay.

The data dates back to employees who worked there decades ago and includes home addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, and other personal information.

"Now I’ve got that word along with and not just the people that work there we’re up to about 500 people that work there as far back as probably 1970s, 1980s. We’re up to 500 people so trying to figure out how to get a hold of all these people because their personal data has now been compromised," Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews said during a meeting last week of the Washington County Commission.

He said the ransomware attack severely hampered the sheriff's office for two weeks.

"When I say they shut us down, I mean, we are operating blindly," Crews said. "You know, we can't run a tag, we can't run a driver's license and a big safety thing, we can't check to see if somebody is a fugitive or, you know, commit a heinous crime somewhere."

The attack has now forced the county to take a closer look at its cybersecurity.

Crews said they are ten years behind where they should be.

The hackers told the sheriff's office they had until March 20 to pay the ransom or the personal data would be leaked.

"Everything, so that ain't just the data that we deal with from a public safety standpoint," Crews said. "It's the people that work there all is going to be published. So yeah, so so we’re dealing with that side of it the best we can."

Florida statute prohibits state agencies from paying cyber ransoms.

Sheriff Crews asked commissioners to include an extra $140,000 in his annual budget to improve cyber security. Commissioners plan to hold a special meeting on the request this week.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.