In the UK, specifically in Lincolnshire County, the Council’s computers were under attack. The IT systems had to be shut down for four consecutive days after being hit by a ransomware, asking for £1m ransom.
A ransomware is a computer malware that is capable of encrypting data on infected devices and machines and only “breaks the spell” when the victim pays.
The authorities were closely working with their computer security provider to determine the entity of the issue and to swiftly move into fixing it as soon as possible.
Judith Hetherington-Smith – Chief information officer – declared that only a small number of files were actually affected, raising hopes for a prompt solution to the situation. The security measures taken included, firstly, the identification of the malware and the consequent shutting down of all the computer systems affected.
This decision caused disruptions to other services provided by the Council, such as libraries and online booking systems. For four consecutive days people had to go back in time – more than twenty years or so – and use pens and paper.
According to the CIO, the attack happened quickly. The reaction from the authorities was nevertheless prompt and punctual, yet some damages were still inflicted before it was finally possible to shut the whole of the network down. Some files had in fact been locked by the software and IT technicians were looking into restoring them from the back-up.
Lincolnshire County Council has expressed its hope that everything would go back to normal within this week: systems will resume where they left off. Possibly.
The ransomware has already been labelled as “the biggest attack” the English Council had ever experienced; moreover, it was not only a first impact-wise but it was also a “zero-day malware”, a definition that applies to all those kinds of malware that were previously unknown to security experts.
In any case, the authorities were happy with the security measure appropriately put in place and expressed its annoyance to the Council being the first unfortunate victim of this type of malware.
Lincolnshire Police has confirmed that the attack was under investigation in order to get more useful insight and info about it.
The Information Commissioner’s Office – responsible for putting into practice the Data Protection Act 1998, confirmed its awareness about the incident.