Joining the ranks among numerous other cities and counties across the nation, the city of Galt’s computer system was attacked by hackers sometime over the weekend. The hackers placed ransomware on the city’s computer system, which has required city IT professionals to, for the most part, shut down the computer system. No emails, nor phone calls, coming or going are accessible, indefinitely.
Galt personnel discovered the infiltration early Monday morning, Dec. 16 as systems began to fail.
“Information technology (IT) crews responded immediately to preserve and protect any portions of the city’s computerized systems not yet affected,” Interim City Manager Tom Haglund said in a press release.
According to Haglund, the ransomware hackers placed malware on the city’s computerized systems in order to take over those systems in pursuit of a ransom payment. The ransom amount is unknown at this time.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to deny access to a computer system or specific data until a ransom is paid.
According to www.us-cert.gov, ransomware is typically spread through phishing emails or by unknowingly visiting an infected website.
“An analysis is being conducted with the use of forensic experts to determine the cause and full extent of the attack,” Haglund said. “It appears that the attack has encrypted access to data on certain city servers but has not resulted in the exposure of personal data, though investigation is ongoing.”
Systems affected by the attack include the city’s email server, eliminating email communication to and from any city account.
The city’s telephone system was also harmed by the attack, which operates as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP).
“The disruption in telephone service will prevent the public from calling into the city,” Haglund said. “The city is evaluating options to reestablish limited telephone service while the main system is repaired.”
There is a bit of good news: the 911 phone lines were not affected in the attack and are fully operational. Citizens with life threatening emergencies should dial 911.
“The city is working closely with its IT experts, risk management providers, legal counsel, and law enforcement to evaluate the extent of the attack and options moving forward,” Haglund said. “The city has also reported the attack to the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is working with those agencies. We will update the public as soon as we know more.”
Assemblyman Jim Cooper heard of Galt’s plight and issued a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“My office is currently working with local and state leaders to provide assistance should the city of Galt need additional resources. Including, but not limited to, support from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services,” Cooper said in the statement. “At this time, my office stands ready and willing to assist the city of Galt in any capacity. For further information or assistance, please contact my district office at (916) 670-7888.”