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Jekyll Island Authority Targeted by Ransomware Attack

The Georgia entity in charge of the stewardship of Jekyll Island was targeted by a ransomware attack last week. Officials reported that the cyberattack was isolated and systems were restored.

(TNS) — Jekyll Island Authority fell victim last week to a ransomware attack that has since been mostly addressed.

JIA Executive Director Jones Hooks informed the authority’s board at its monthly meeting Tuesday that JIA computer systems were infected by a ransomware attack designed to damage or gain unauthorized access to the system.

“All of our computer systems — this was not just within a department — were impacted, and it’s a very serious situation,” Hooks said. “It’s much more than just an interruption of the Internet or anything like that.”

This was an intentional infiltration that broke through the computer system’s firewalls and encryptions.

“The good news is, however, that a few years ago we made the decision to go with a third party provider of IT services rather than just having IT within the JIA because we realized that our needs were beginning to be much larger than what we could afford to address,” Hooks said.

Coastal Computers, the third-party provider, isolated and ended the attack before restoring the system. The work is not yet completed, though, and new protective measures are being implemented.

The state provided assistance in addressing the situation, Hooks said.

“Unfortunately, they have indicated that situations like this usually are situations where the perpetrators are either caught or continue on with the situation unless they at some point decide that there’s a more fertile victim somewhere else,” he said.

JIA has been in contact with the outside party responsible for the attack, Hooks said.

“We have now been contacted by the perpetrators, and at this time however we are uncertain of their demands,” he said. “We’re continuing to follow...the protocols that the state has told us to follow.”

The JIA board also heard a presentation of the Shoreline Protection Plan, part of a collaborative project led by Glynn County and involving JIA and Brunswick that has been funded by a grant.

“Our 2014 master plan calls for a shoreline management plan for Jekyll, and we feel this meets that call and is even better than going it alone,” said Ben Carswell, director of conservation on Jekyll.

Rob Brown, an engineer with Goodwyn, Mills, and Cawood, presented the culmination of the first phase of the initiative, which intends to create a plan that outlines and prioritizes potential projects. The plan can be used for future grant applications, Brown said.

Glynn County pursued the grant in response to lessons learned during and after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma in 2016 and 2017. The grant was awarded in 2018.

The first phase of the plan focused on shoreline assessment, looking for vulnerable areas and exploring potential preventative measures and remediation solutions, Brown said.

Fifteen projects have been identified on Jekyll. The highest priority projects are on the island’s north end,where larger shoreline change rates have been documented over the past several years. That part of the island also has lower elevations and several historical structures.

Other projects are in area of the wharf and Jekyll’s historic district.

In other business, board member Bill Gross reported that JIA’s August revenues were above what was budgeted, noting that traffic numbers for the month exceeded prior year-to-date traffic counts. The total traffic count for August was more than 112,000 vehicles, which was over 12,000 more than the number reported in August 2019.

“The past five months, our traffic counts have been down every month,” Hooks said. “… It’s very significant that in August our numbers were up.”

The JIA board also:

  • Approved a new false alarm ordinance after hearing a second reading and making an amendment to reduce the fine amount. The ordinance addresses the issue of frequent commercial false alarms occurring at island businesses.
  • Authorized the notification of an amendment to Jekyll’s master plan, addressing the need for a Georgia Power substation upgrade for which an additional 2.95 acres of undeveloped land would be necessary.
  • Approved a capital expenditure of $67,775 for engineering and installation design of a new Summer Waves Water Park slide complex and splash pad.
  • Heard a presentation from Vincent Design, LLC, on the Golf Master Plan and an update on recent audit findings.
©2020 The Brunswick News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.