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Alabama County Offices Work to Reopen After Cyberattack

Chilton County, Ala., officials say that they hope to reopen a pair of governmental office services during the week to come after a nearly two-week closure that was caused by a ransomware attack.

by Anna Beahm, Alabama Media Group / July 20, 2020
Shutterstock/NicoElNino

(TNS) — Chilton County, Ala., officials hope to reopen tag and probate office services early next week after a nearly two-week closure caused by a ransomware attack.

Commissioner Joseph Parnell said the county’s first priority is to reopen to tag office by early next week and open to probate office at some point next week. Residents have been unable to renew their tags since July 7 when the attack was discovered. Until the computer system is back online and offices reopened, residents cannot renew tags or do any other county business.

Parnell said the officials don’t yet know what information was compromised, but he said around 70 computers were hit. He said the county system hard drives on Tuesday were sent to be processed by an IT company in New York. He did not identify the company.

In a ransomware attack, hackers deliver a file to unsuspecting users that once downloaded is used to commandeer and lockup a network. Hackers generally demand payment return access to files and the system to its owners. In 2019, the City of Leeds paid $12,000 to regain control of its files. Governments and businesses have been targeted in Alabama, including DCH Health System in Tuscaloosa, also in 2019.

The county did not pay the ransom demanded by the hackers, who Parnell called “terrorists.” He said he’d rather use taxpayer money to recover data than to give taxpayer money to the hackers.

“We’re feeling very blessed. It could have been a lot worse,” Parnell said.

The county has ordered updated computer equipment for many county offices to better protect against another attack.

“We really learned where our weaknesses are,” Parnell said.

It could be a month or more before all the computer systems are upgraded and the system is up and running at usual capacity.

©2020 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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