Ashland city government recovering from cyberattack

10 months 2 weeks 1 day ago Thursday, August 29 2019 Aug 29, 2019 Thursday, August 29, 2019 3:28:00 PM CDT August 29, 2019 in News
By: Michael Van Schoik, KOMU 8 Reporter
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ASHLAND - The city government in Ashland is still recovering from a cyber hack that occurred Wednesday.

The attack prevented city officials from accessing any of the city's network systems and data. The Ashland Interim City Administrator said staff came to work in the morning and realized they were locked out of their network.

“Our first contact was with them to figure out what’s going on," Interim City Director Tony St. Romaine said. "[We] found out this was not just a problem for the city of Ashland but there were other businesses in the area that were also impacted.” 

In fact, several Columbia businesses fell victim to a similar attack. 

Rob Smith, designated broker at Weichter Real Estate, previously told KOMU 8 News that his office had a similar experience when everyone arrived to work.

"I just noticed that each folder in my hard drive had a specific text file with a weird extension that was on it and then when you click on that particular file," Smith said Wednesday, "it's a text file and it's a ransom note."

St. Romaine said although city staff were just locked out of their systems, they had more serious concerns. 

“Our major concern here is, is this going to impact all of our files where we lose data?" he said. "Does somebody have access to somebody’s personal information? Those are the sort of things we are very worried about.”

St. Romaine said as of now it appears no data has been stolen. But the city is working hard to make sure future hacks are prevented.

“Once we get back restored a hundred percent," he said. "We will have a pretty good conversation not only with city staff here, but also with our technology vendor to figure out what can we do to make sure this does not happen again.”

He said these kind of hacks can happen very frequently and believes it will not be the last time it occurs. 

"Chances are it probably will at some point in time," he said. "So we got to have a way to deal with it in a much more efficient manner.”

In the mean time, St. Romaine said the city still does not have access to its data. The hack has also forced some residents to pay utility bills in person, which are done online. 

He said he anticipates the city's network to be back in full function by the end of the day Thursday or by early Friday. 

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