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Hackers Target Atlanta Government Computers, Bitcoin Ransom Demanded

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A group of hackers are demanding payment in Bitcoin to unlock computer systems they were able infiltrate in Atlanta. Yesterday’s ransomware attack targeted computers in important government departments. Data stored on the affected systems has been digitally encrypted.

Another Case of Bitcoin Ransomware

The security breach was first reported via a statement by the city on Thursday morning. The following was later posted to Atlanta’s official Twitter account:

The City of Atlanta is currently experiencing outages on various customer facing applications, including some that customers may use to pay bills or access court-related information. We will post any updates as we receive them. pic.twitter.com/kc51rojhBl

— City of Atlanta, GA (@Cityofatlanta) March 22, 2018

According to local news source 11 Alive, the hackers are demanding a ransom of $6,800 be paid for each affected computer system. A screen shot sent to the publication from an employee of the city shows that the entire cost will be $51,000. This is to be paid in Bitcoin. Andrew Green, a security expert and professor at Kennesaw State University, is reported to be analysing the document. If the hackers receive said bounty, they will apparently decrypt the data that has been compromised.

The mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, made an official announcement regarding the hacking yesterday afternoon. She stated in an impromptu press conference that the full gravity of the attack was unknown at present. She also offered a warning to anyone who had business or consumer relationships with city departments. She said:

“We don’t know the extent or if anyone’s personal data or bank accounts will be compromised… All of us are subject to this attack.”

Despite the extent of the security breach being unknown at present, Atlanta’s Chief Operating Officer, Richard Cox claimed that water, public safety, and airport operations were not affected. He continued:

“City payroll has not been affected and we have not determined that City Hall will need to be closed on Friday.”

There have been no further updates from government officials on the situation since.

According to 11 Alive, officials will be working with security experts from a variety of companies, as well as specialists from federal and local government departments to discover any evidence that might relate to the incident. These include the FBI, the US Department of Homeland Security, Cisco, and Microsoft. They hope that together they’ll be able to work out a solution or at least who is responsible for the attack.

Whilst Fortune are calling this hack “one of the boldest ransomware attacks to date”, it’s certainly not the first time computer systems have been frozen and payment demanded in Bitcoin to unlock them. Last year, we reported on the infamous WannaCry ransomware attack that affected computers across the planet. This was later connected to the North Korean government.