Atlanta Ransomware Attack Shows Cities Not Prepared for Long-Term Security Breaches

Nichole VegaMar 31, 2018

Mayor Bottoms said, "The City of Atlanta is now experiencing outages on various customer facing applications, including some that customers may use to pay bills or access court-related information".

Dell SecureWorks and Cisco Security, which are working to restore the city's systems, declined to comment on the attacks, citing client confidentiality.

Ransomware disables systems by encrypting critical data and then demanding payment for the unlock code, or else risk losing the data entirely.

Some services that are not available online can be accessed in person by coming to City of Atlanta offices. Conceivably, it's possible to hold a city's power or water for literal ransom in the very near future. But they can not say for sure whether SamSam is a single group of cybercriminals or a loose hacking collective.

Bottoms has not said publicly whether the city will pay the ransom-she told CNN that "everything is up for discussion".

Georgia-based cybersecurity firm Rendition Infosec revealed on its Twitter account Tuesday that five city computers were also hacked last April, when computers worldwide were compromised in a large and fast-moving cyberattack.

A month later, Russian state hackers deployed similar ransomware to paralyze computers in Ukraine on the eve of the country's independence day.

Officials from Atlanta Information Management, the city's technology department, realized the city had been attacked on March 22.

But few attacks have been as widespread as the one hitting Atlanta, which has a metro area of about six million people.

"The city of Loganville, which is in Gwinnett and Walton counties, announced it had been victimized in a Monday afternoon Facebook post - and said that [officials] believed breach "may involve [customers'] personal information".

However, they called it a ransomware attack. Some employees haven't even been taught how to spot phishing emails meant to trick them into opening ransomware.

"We are dealing with a hostage situation", Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement.

During the ransomware attack, local leaders have sometimes been able to do little but chuckle at a predicament that was forcing the city to turn the clock back decades.

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done with our digital infrastructure in the city of Atlanta and we know that year after year, that it's something that we have to focus on and certainly this has sped things up".

The mayor also attempted to make light of the situation-she told The New York Times the attack would be "a nice exercise in good penmanship" for her younger employees.

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