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.
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.