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Struggling After A Crippling Cyberattack, Atlanta Forced To Start Doing Business Old-Fashioned Way


Atlanta continues its recovery following a recent cyber attack that has crippled many parts of the city’s government, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

The city was hit with the SamSam virus a week and a half ago; files across Atlanta’s network were corrupted, their filenames replaced with names like “weapologize” and “imsorry,” their contexts pure gibberish. 

“It’s extraordinarily frustrating,” Councilman Howard Shook said. His office has lost 16 years worth of files.

“Everything on my hard drive is gone,” City Auditor Amanda Noble said. Her office was one of the lucky ones; only eight of its 18 computers were affected by the virus.

The police department and water department were also hit hard. The police have refused to say just how many case files have been scrambled, and have not said whether any evidence has been lost.

However, the APD is currently filing all of its reports the old fashioned way, on paper.

Other offices are sharing primitive laptops that they believe aren’t advanced enough to suffer from the virus; still others are making do with their employee’s personal cell phones. 

“Things are very slow,” Shook said, who is sharing one very old laptop with his staff. “It was a surreal experience to be shut down like that.” 

Noble said that Atlanta was vulnerable to the attack in part because “we have so many different systems.”

Like many cities, Atlanta didn’t go digital all at once, and its offices don’t operate on a single system. Some of its systems are new and cutting edge; some are older and rather vulnerable.

Once the virus hit, the city was sent a message from the hackers who introduced it. The black hats promised to restore the corrupted files if the city paid out a ransom of $51,000 in bitcoin.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms

New Atlanta mayor Keisha Bottoms will not say publicly if the city has tried to negotiate with these hackers, or if any ransom has been paid.

The FBI also won’t comment on the ransom, but did say that it is helping Atlanta as best as it can.

Both the city and the federal government say that they are working as hard as they can to fix the damage.

Mark Weatherford, a former official with the Department of Homeland Security, told the Monitor that the city likely refused to pay. Weatherford said that hackers usually released ransomed software very quickly once their demands are met.

Atlanta, he warned, may be in danger of never getting its data back: apparently, hackers tend to walk away from discussions with their targets once it becomes clear that a ransom will not be paid.

Linda Crossland offers directions to a visitor of City Hall on March 23, 2018 in Atlanta. On that morning, city government employees were handed instructions not to turn on their computers or log on to their work stations after the discovery of a widespread computer virus. (Photo/caption: John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP)
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Phyllis Coley
Phyllis D. Coley is CEO/Publisher of Spectacular Magazine and Host of Spectacular Magazine Radio Show. With a B.A. in English from NCCU, the Durham native began her professional career as Promotions/Marketing Director for New York City’s WKTU-FM. While at the radio station, Coley discovered the rap group Kid ‘n Play and managed them for five years, guiding their music and movie careers to success. Moving back to Durham, Coley produced a nationally syndicated television show, The Electric Factory, while working as News Director for FOXY 107/104. In April 2002, recognizing a void in highlighting the achievements of African Americans, she started her own business publishing ACE Magazine. Coley launched Spectacular Magazine in November 2004. Recognizing the lack of pertinent and truthful information, Coley began Spectacular Magazine Radio Show in March 2009. Coley is the organizer of Durham's Annual MLK/Black History Month Parade and the Annual North Carolina Juneteenth Celebration. She currently serves on Central Children’s Home Board of Directors, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Advisors, as Immediate Past Secretary of the Durham Rotary Club Board of Directors and is one of the founding members of the Triangle United Way’s African American Leadership Initiative.

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