A Palo Alto dentist's database was hacked and an unknown individual held its contents for $3,000 ransom, Palo Alto police said.
The unnamed dental office, which is located in the 900 block of Welch Road, had its files compromised between April 10 and 13. The office did not report the incident to police until June 5, Sgt. James Reifschneider said Tuesday, June 12.
The break-in was discovered after the office computer system noted that data was corrupted by malware or spyware, he said.
"The files that were compromised were X-rays and associated notes. No personal identification information was taken as far as we know," Reifschneider said.
This type of cyber attack is not unusual in the IT world, he added. The hacker typically freezes or corrupts data and generates an automatic message. If the victim wants to regain access they must remit a ransom, he said.
The ransom message included an email address to arrange for payment, but the doctor had no intention of engaging in contact with the perpetrator, Reifschneider said. The dentist's office contacted an IT service provider to try to recover and reconstruct the data. Reifschneider did not know how successful the attempt has been, he said.
People who are taken in and wire money will most probably be sending it out of the country. There would be little chance of catching the crook or recovering the money, police have said of such fraud cases.
Most such attacks originate from outside of the United States, but money really isn't the primary motive, Reifschneider added.
"As is the case with many of these, most do it to be purely malicious and disruptive," he said.