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Racine, Wis., Knocked Offline by Ransomware Attack

The city website, its email system and online payment collection were all affected and were still down over the weekend. The tax collections system, 911 and other public safety systems were not impacted.

by Caitlin Sievers, The Journal Times / February 3, 2020
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(TNS) — City of Racine computer systems were infected by ransomware early Friday morning, and remained that way late Sunday afternoon.

The city website, its email system and online payment collection were all affected and were still down over the weekend. Racine Police were unable to process fee payments or provide copies of police or accident reports, according to a Racine Police Facebook post.

Not affected were the tax collections system, 911 and other public safety systems housed by Racine County.

As of Sunday afternoon, the city did not expect most of its systems to be up and running on Monday. If residents need to contact the city, they should do it via phone instead of email, according to Shannon Powell, the city’s communications director. Powell added that affected systems will likely be down for the next couple of days.

Ransomware, a type of malicious software, encrypts files and software, preventing access until a ransom is paid to the sender.

Ransomware is usually spread through phishing emails or visiting an infected website, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a division of the federal Department of Homeland Security.

The city’s Management Information Systems department worked Friday to determine the extent of the infection, and followed protocols to restore its systems and reported the incident to authorities at the state and federal level.

MIS worked over the weekend with the city’s cybersecurity insurer “to develop a detailed plan to restore and recover systems without spreading the ransomware,” according to a statement from Powell.

“We are also conducting an investigation into the cause and scope of the investigation, including whether any data housed by the City was accessed or acquired by the ransomware actor,” Powell said in a statement Saturday evening.

CISA warns that “ransomware can be devastating to an individual or an organization.”

The City of Baltimore was attacked by ransomware in May, with an estimated impact to that city of $18.2 million, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Powell said he did not have information on whether the city had received a demand for ransom.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware, a type of malicious software, encrypts files and software, preventing access until a ransom is paid to the sender. It is usually spread through phishing emails or visiting an infected website, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a division of the federal Department of Homeland Security.

©2020 The Journal Times, Racine, Wisc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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