‘Iranian Hackers’ Claim Hack on Macon County, Ill., Website

The cyberincident Sunday night targeted the Circuit Clerk’s Office, hijacking control of its main web page. The perpetrator claimed to be Iranian in a message accompanied by an image of a Guy Fawkes mask.

by Kennedy Nolen, Herald & Review / August 20, 2019
Shutterstock/BEST-BACKGROUNDS

(TNS) — Macon County, Ill., is the latest government entity to be targeted by hackers who hijacked a web page and disabled access.

The Circuit Clerk's Office main web page on Sunday night was overtaken by an image of a Guy Fawkes mask, Iranian flag and the text: "Hacked by Iranian Hackers. Hacked by Mamad Warning. We are always closer to you. Your identity is known to us. Your information is for us ;) take care."

Circuit Clerk Lois Durbin said the county Information Technology department restored the page by 10 a.m. Monday.

The office handles all records of traffic, civil and criminal cases in the county, but Durbin said personal identification information is stored on a separate system and wasn't in danger of being accessed.

"The firewall went up, and everything was protected and nothing was compromised," she said.

The county joins a growing list of government entities that are the victims of hacking attempts. Another technique involves disabling a website with malware and demanding money to restore it.

A so-called ransomware attack in March went after Atlanta's computer system, with hackers asking for $51,000 paid to unlock access. It was estimated $17 million would be needed to recover.

Baltimore city computer servers were attacked in May, and city officials refused a demand to pay the equivalent of $76,000 in bitcoin in response. Last year, the city's 911 system was disabled for 17 hours following an attack.

The Papillion-La Vista Community Schools near Omaha had to rebuild its servers after the May cyberattack.

In July, three northern Louisiana school districts experienced what were called "severe, intentional cybersecurity breaches" that prompted Gov. John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency.

There also have been ongoing concerns about the security of election systems that are vulnerable.

In the case of the Macon County hacking attempt, users who clicked the mask and flag image were redirected to what appeared to be the hackers' Instagram page.

The same image and words were used on the bill processing page for the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Water Department website. It also was used in Crook County, Oregon, this month. The hackers took over the Crook County government and sheriff's office websites.

A call to the Macon County IT department on Monday was not immediately returned.

County Board Chairman Kevin Greenfield said the Circuit Clerk's Office attempt is worrisome. He said Durbin and officeholders are taking every precaution possible.

Macon County Clerk Josh Tanner said that any time a cyberincident happens, it's a good time to collect new information and review cybersecurity procedures. The incidents are typically reported to the Illinois State Terrorism Intelligence Center, operated by the State Police, Illinois National Guard, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

"The people in our IT Department are just trained to defend against these types of things," Tanner said. The Intelligence Center workers "are trained to go after them."

©2019 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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