Published: Thu, March 29, 2018
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Atlanta hobbled by major cyberattack that mayor calls 'a hostage situation'

Atlanta hobbled by major cyberattack that mayor calls 'a hostage situation'

City officials announced Thursday that the city's computer network had been attacked by ransomware that encrypted some city data.

The city of Atlanta is still struggling to recover from a devastating cyberattack that its mayor has compared to a "hostage situation" and security experts say is a reminder of the vulnerabilities of government computer networks.

The attack is not limited to Atlanta only, the hackers might access uburban town 30 miles away. Travelers at waiting to board their flights at the worlds busiest airport Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport couldn't utilize the free wi-fi as result of the cyberattack. In a ransomware attack, malicious software cripples a victim's computer or network and blocks access to important data until a ransom is paid to unlock it.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bolton said this week the city was asked for a $51,000 ransom from unidentified hackers, but there was no formal confirmation of the ransom amount. A hacker attack in Dallas last year set off tornado sirens in the middle of the night, and the Colorado Department of Transportation has been targeted twice this year. No personal information has been compromised yet, though Bottoms warned city employees and all residents to check their bank accounts regularly. Michael R. Cote, President & CEO of Secureworks, an Atlanta-based firm called in to assist the city, said the city was transitioning into the recovery phase. The attack has been on rise in recent years.

A 2016 survey of chief information officers found that ransom was the most common objective of cyberattacks on a local government, accounting for almost one-third of all attacks, but less than half of the governments surveyed said they had developed a formal cybersecurity policy.

Cybersecurity experts estimate that criminals made more than $1 billion from ransomware in 2016, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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.

As the disruption in Atlanta persists, the city is losing out financially, Bottoms told an earlier news conference on Friday.

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