City Government Compromised

Lafayette, a reminder of small business ransomware

2020 is becoming the year of ransomware; all available statistics are showing an increase in incidents month after month. We are seeing hacking events creep into the mainstream news cycle with huge companies like Twitter and Garmin. But a small city in Colorado is a reminder that hackers are not only targeting large corporations.

A city of 30,000 residents in Colorado is the latest reminder of the threat of ransomware in 2020. The city of Lafayette, Colorado suffered a ransomware attack late in July. They did not make the breach public until early in August. The hackers encrypted data, disabled phone systems, email systems, and bill paying systems. Like most cities this size, Lafayette did not have a cybersecurity professional on staff. After the breach occurred, the city government had to have specialists from Boulder come in to help with the clean-up.

With the support of larger city and state cybersecurity professionals, they determined the attack was either a result of a phishing attack, or a brute force attack. They were not able to recover the necessary data from backup to get the city back online. After analyzing the situation, and time it would take to re-build the databases, the city decided to pay the $45,000 ransom.

Due to the pandemic the city had recently cut back hours and furloughed some employees to cut back on spending this year.

“After a thorough examination of the situation and cost scenarios and considering the potential for lengthy inconvenient service outages for residents, we determined that obtaining the decryption tool far outweighed the cost and time to rebuild data and systems,” City of Lafayette Mayor, Jamie Harkins.

It sounds like Lafayette did follow many IT security guidelines. The Mayor says residents’ credit card data was not compromised because of the encryption they use in processing credit cards. She also mentioned residents’ personal data had not been compromised because it was not stored on the city’s databases. From the information publicly available, it sounds like the city was using practices of “least privileged” when storing resident data.

Lafayette is about the same size as the city Quanexus calls home. This is a real issue for moderately sized cities and businesses who are large enough to maintain computer systems and databases, but not large enough to keep IT security experts on staff. This is one of the primary roles Quanexus fills for many of our clients. If the increase in ransomware in the news has you thinking more about your IT security, please reach out to see if Quanexus could be a good fit for your business.

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Posted by Charles Wright