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Missouri City Still Recovering from Ransomware Attack

As the city restores in-house tech systems following last week's attempted ransomware attack, Independence, Mo., officials have not said whether the attack compromised personal information for utility customers.

(TNS) — As city staff work to restore in-house technology systems and the city website following last week's attempted ransomware attack, Independence, Mo., officials have not said whether the attack compromised personal or financial information for utility customers.

City Manager  Zach Walker  said Monday that question remains "undetermined." In a release last week, Walker said the attack resulted in "technical difficulties and disruption to multiple services" but was discovered and halted "before it could infect the full city network."

The city's online payment system remains unavailable, and in part because of that the city has waived late fees on utility bill payments and suspended utility shutoffs until further notice.

In a social media post Monday, the city said that when its technology systems are fully operational, it will "develop individualized, flexible repayment solutions" for utility customers who have been affected by the technology outage.

A ransomware attack is a form of cyberattack that locks up a computer or computer system, which can severely hamper an organization's operations, especially if the organization can't access a backup system. The hackers then typically demand a ransom, often paid in some form of cryptocurrency to avoid detection, before they unlock the computer system to allow access again. Cities, school systems and national and global companies have all been hit by such attacks in recent years.

Mayor  Eileen Weir  reiterated Monday that she had not been told the city had to pay any ransom to recover or unlock data or computer systems.

The City Council in July approved more than $4 million worth of upgrades to the city's primary and backup data centers and cybersecurity system, designed to ward off such incidents as this ransomware attack.

Weir said the upgrades have not yet been fully installed — they were not yet scheduled for completion — but what was in place "did prevent things from being worse."

Independence utility customers can pay their bill in person via the drive-thru at the Utilities Center, 17221 E. 23rd St.8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, in the Utilities Center lobby 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and in the after-hours drop-off at City Hall at any time. At this time the city is accepting cash, check and money order payments only. Customers will need to provide their account/customer number when making their payments.

(c)2020 The Examiner, Independence, Mo. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.