Small town, big hack

Ransom amount still unknown as Sacramento County municipality sets up temporary phone lines

An early morning ransomware ambush last week plunged the small city of Galt into confusion, disrupting online communications and phone lines.

According to a Dec. 17 press release from the city, hackers placed the malware on Galt’s computer systems the day before. Forensic experts were brought it to determine the extent of the damage, but the city said last week that while hackers encrypted access to certain city servers, it didn’t believe personal data had been exposed.

Interim city manager Thomas Haglund wasn’t immediately available for an update on Dec. 23, including whether a ransom amount had been determined or paid.

The city established temporary phone numbers that were still in use this week, suggesting the systems had yet to be fixed. The city noted that its Police Department’s 911 phone lines were not affected by the cyberattack.

In a statement, state Assemblyman Jim Cooper said his office was working to provide assistance to the south county municipality, which sits in his district, and had recently presented a $500,000 check to the city of Lodi to upgrade its computer systems against hackers.

“Cyberwarfare is a big issue facing cities throughout the country,” the Elk Grove Democrat added.

According to SonicWall Capture Labs, there were 7.2 billion malware attacks in the first three quarters of 2019, 15% more than during the same period in 2018. The cybersecurity company’s research arm also counted 151.9 million ransomware attacks over this same period, representing a 5% increase over the first three quarters of 2018.