Another US city suffers a ransomware attack: now, Oakland

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The city of Oakland confirmed a ransomware attack Friday night. As they explained, various computer systems of the public administration have started to experience problems of functioning, although they guarantee it critical infrastructure has not been compromised.

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Ransomware is a type of virus that encrypts systems to demand a ransom in exchange. City officials did not respond to requests for comment but released a statement Friday afternoon saying the ransomware attack began Wednesday night.

“The information technology department is coordinating with law enforcement and actively investigating the scope and the severity of the problem. Our core functions are intact. 911, financials, and fire and emergency resources are unaffected,” officials said.

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Responding to these types of incidents is critical to preventing ransomware from spreading to other parts of the system, if it can be isolated.

“The city is following industry best practices and is developing a response plan to address the issue. As a precaution, ITD has taken the affected systems offline work to ensure and safely restore services. Meanwhile, the public should expect delays from Council. We are actively monitoring the situation and sending updated information as it becomes available,” they added.

How it was detected and which systems it affected

Oakland reporter Jaime Omar Yassin was the first to report that city officials were dealing with a ransomware incident.

On Thursday evening, Yassin said city officials sent an email to government employees attributing service outages to the ransomware attack that began Wednesday.

“ITD is following industry best practices and developing a response plan to address the issue. At the moment, VPN access is offline and the city’s computers are disconnected from the city’s network,” the email said.

“As a precautionary measure, ITD is asking staff not to reconnect to the network until further notice. It is not known that 911 Dispatch, the urban mobile devices, Office 365, NeoGov, OakWiFithe city website, Oracle and other services are affected.

Computers in all Oakland public libraries were reportedly down, forcing librarians to use roadmaps transfer books from one branch to another.

The San Jose Sun also reported that the city of Modesto, about an hour and a half from Oakland, was also facing a citywide ransomware attack that forced the police department back on the radios.

unsafe systems

The bridge that connects San Francisco with Oakland.  photo by AFP

The bridge that connects San Francisco with Oakland. photo by AFP

Yassin noted that the city has long faced problems maintaining IT positions, i.e. technicians, and was reportedly warned of shortcomings in cybersecurity last year.

Several city workers took to social media to complain about the blackouts, which also affected local libraries.

Ransomware attacks in big cities like Oakland have become rarer in recent years as governments have stepped up their cybersecurity protections and groups target smaller governments with fewer resources.

New Orleans, Atlanta, and Baltimore experienced crippling attacks in 2018 and 2019. Tulsa also reported an attack by the Conti ransomware group in 2021.

Atlanta was forced to spend more 9.5 million dollars to recover from the crash and Baltimore reportedly spent $19 million to deal with his attack.

A month ago, San Francisco faced a ransomware attack on its Bay Area Rapid Transit that later resulted in a large amount of sensitive information being leaked by the railroad police force.

Source: Clarin

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