Hackers target PGA servers, seek Bitcoin ransom

ST. LOUIS — It’s not just elections. Hackers are now targeting major golf tournaments too.

Shadowy bandits have hijacked the PGA of America’s computer servers, locking officials out of crucial files related to this week’s PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club and the upcoming Ryder Cup in France.

Staff realized Tuesday morning that their systems had been compromised when attempts to work on the files generated an ominous message: “Your network has been penetrated. All files on each host in the network have been encrypted with a strong algorythm [sic].”

Any attempt to break the encryption could cause the loss of all of the work, the hackers warned. “This may lead to the impossibility of recovery of certain files,” the message threatened.

The files contained creative materials for the PGA Championship at Bellerive and next month’s Ryder Cup in France. That includes extensive promotional banners and logos used in digital and print communications, and on digital signage around the grounds at Bellerive. The stolen files also include development work on logos for future PGA Championships. Some of the work began more than a year ago and cannot be easily replicated.

The hackers quickly made clear that their goal was extortion.

“We exclusively have decryption software for your situation,” they wrote. “No decryption software is available in the public.”

An encrypted email address was included with an offer for the PGA of America to send the hackers two files which they would decrypt as evidence of their “honest intentions.”

The message also included a Bitcoin wallet number, but no specific ransom amount was demanded for the return of the files. Bitcoin wallets are not linked to a particular person or entity and cannot be used to identify suspects.

The PGA of America does not intend to meet any extortion demands, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

The organization’s IT team scrambled to address the issue but has not yet regained complete control of the files, nor identified the source of the hacking.

As of Wednesday afternoon, officials had still not regained complete control of their servers. It’s not believed that the hacking has yet impacted the PGA Championship and outside IT experts have been engaged to ensure the tournament is unaffected.

A spokesperson for the PGA of America said the organization would be declining comment on the hacking because it is an ongoing situation.

Follow Us:

Golfweek's Best