A hacker trying to get bitcoins took government computers hostage in Atlanta, demanding a $51,000 ransom, CNET reported.
Severe customer-facing application outrages were caused by the ransomware cyberattack, posing an “incredibly serious situation,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms explained in a press conference on Thursday. The attack, encrypting the city’s data files and affecting services used by customers to pay bills and access court documents, was under investigation by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, Bottoms said. They are also working with Microsoft and Cisco Incident Response teams to solve the issue.
The cyberattack shook several residents in the city, causing Atlanta’s busy Hartsfield-Jackson airport to shut down its Wi-Fi service Friday, WSB-TV reported.
The attacker(s) used ransomware, a “malicious software that can lock up your files until you send hackers a ransom payment,” CNET reported. This security breach could have also possibly comprised the personal data of city employees, officials said, cautioning employees to be careful, contact credit agencies and monitor bank accounts.
However, the city’s payroll, police, public safety, emergency response and water departments were not be affected by the breach, officials added.
The city’s security team noticed something amiss on its servers and began suspecting a cyberattack. Atlanta departments have backup systems for its collected data, officials said, but it’s unclear whether those systems saved important files or were properly tested.
Payment was demanded by the attacker(s) to decrypt the files, according to CNET.
Atlanta city hall employees were told not to turn their computers on Friday, WSB-TV reported.
The incident spotlights how Americans have to be on alert about their personal data and security, Atlanta officials said. They assured the public that they were working diligently with the FBI and Homeland Security to do damage control, stop the attack and prevent future breaches.