A virus that infected the computer system of the Licking County government offices in Ohio has shut down the entire network, including that of the local police force, and a financial demand was made to restore everything back to normal, according to TechCrunch.
Although the details have yet to be released, it’s believed that an employee’s computer was exposed to the ransomware through a phishing scam or by accidentally downloading it. The servers have now been locked up, and the FBI and Bureau of Criminal Investigation have been notified.
The virus hit several local governments in Ohio and was the subject of a warning from the state auditor last summer. While county offices remain open, the computer and phone systems are down, and it is unknown when everything will be restored. Anyone that needs to contact county offices will need to come down in person. Fortunately, the public can still call 911 in case of an emergency, but even that office is working without computers.
Officials aren’t sure when the county will be back up and running — or if the ransom will be paid. The Newark Advocate reported that Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb would not disclose the amount of the ransom demand, but they are taking the advice of cybersecurity experts and law enforcement.
“It’s their call to decide if we can get this resolved ourselves,” Bubb said. “That decision has not been made and is not our call at this point. We’re dealing with a criminal element. It’s a crime against the people of Licking County and its government.”
While these attacks have become common, experts say they are preventable with good backup practices. But since computers in every hospital, county office or police department are not connected to a solid backup system or well-organized hard drive, instances of what happened in Licking County will continue to take place.