By STEVEN WEBER
Valdez Star 

Cyberattack on city's IT Infrastructure still holding data hostage

Ransomware attacks are a growing reality in an ever increasing tech savvy world

 

August 8, 2018

Valdez Star photo

The city's website is up and running but city employees are still without email and business is being conducted on paper.

The cyberattack on the city's IT infrastructure is still disabling portions of the city's operations, while a number of functions are back online.

City of Valdez data was breached two weeks ago and encrypted by ransomware, and is being held for an unspecified amount of money.

"The City is making improvements moving forward and is doing everything possible to prevent public services from being interrupted," said Allie Ferko, the city's public information officer.

Ferko also added that the approach the city is taking will consist of three components. The first is to limit the inconvenience the public experiences. The second is to rebuild the IT infrastructure and the third is the active law enforcement investigation which is currently being handled by the FBI.

As stated by the city's press release dated August 7, the public should also be aware that due to the cyberattack, regular employee e-mail is currently unavailable. E-mails sent to the city will not result in an error message and the sender will believe the e-mail went through as usual. The primary contact information for city employees is still through telephone and/or fax and the city's main phone number 907-835-4313 is still operational.


Citizens or visitors with questions or concerns about the interruption of services should contact the city's public information office at covaldezpio@gmail.com or 907-834-3468.

City officials have not communicated with the unidentified entity holding the city's network hostage and so it is unknown how much ransom is being asked to release the network.

A growing trend among hackers is to plant ransomware and then hold it hostage for seemingly small amounts of money – under $50,000 – in hopes for a realistic payout.

The FBI discourages organizations from paying ransom to hackers.

"The FBI doesn't support paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack," the law enforcement agency says on its website. "Paying a ransom doesn't guarantee an organization that it will get its data back-there have been cases where organizations never got a decryption key after having paid the ransom."

The attack on the city's IT is just one example of numerous cyberattacks that occur nationwide each day.

"Offensive cyber capabilities are developing more rapidly than our ability to deal with hostile incidents," according to the World Economic Forum Global Risks Report in 2018.

In June of 2015, the federal Office of Personnel Management suffered two cyberattacks which resulted in the largest government data breach to date, affecting roughly 21.5 million individuals that had applied for government security clearances.


Future Technology 500 is one of many organizations that believe the future of warfare is cyber based. According to them, "future cyber warfare will continue to scale up attacks against government organizations, corporations, special interest groups and even civilians in the next ten years where it will be on par with traditional military attacks such as ground and air attacks and in the coming fifteen years will surpass these tactics."

The future of cyber warfare looks frightening when the tools being developed are capable of infiltrating well-protected government infrastructures. However, for smaller organizations - including the City of Valdez - the outlook is bleaker.

According to Homeland Preparedness news, "Many mid-sized US companies have a difficult time defending their systems against cyberattacks. Around 80 percent of assets vulnerable to a cyberattack are owned by private companies and organizations. They simply do not have the type of capability, bandwidth, interest or experience to develop a practice of cyber analysis."

Source: City of Valdez

 

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