For five days, Atlanta residents were unable to pay parking bills and tickets online or report problems to city services, the result of a cyberattack that brought the city’s municipal services to its knees. A ransomware attack infected government computers, locking them up unless the city paid an extortion fee to unlock them again.
According to the New York Times, a security firm identified the attackers as the SamSam hacking team, a group that is apparently known for carefully selecting targets likely to pay up, as opposed to blanketing hundreds of targets in the hopes of a payout. SamSam has in the past targeted organizations like hospitals, which cannot afford to be offline for days or weeks at a time. In Atlanta, the group demanded approximately $51,000 in bitcoin.
Thousands of city employees were advised not to turn on their computers until yesterday, but the situation still has yet to be fully resolved. Mayor Keisha Bottoms has not determined if the city will pay the ransom. In the meantime, “Atlanta Municipal Court has been unable to validate warrants. Police officers have been writing reports by hand. The city has stopped taking employment applications.”
On the plus side, Mayor Bottoms has found a silver lining for those doing clerical work by hand: “[F]or some of our younger employees, it will be a nice exercise in good penmanship.”