Community Issues

Hackers Take Over Township's Computer System And Demand Money

The ransomware attack started more than a week ago and continues to be a problem...


It's one of the nastiest types of cyber-crime plaguing businesses and government offices and it is now affecting a Pennsylvania township's computer systems. They call it ransomware because hackers gain control of a computer system and then hold it hostage until money is paid, usually through untraceable virtual currency like

Bitcoin

.

Hackers gained control of Bullskin Township's computer system on April 11, 2019

Bullskin Township Supervisor Roy Thayer tells me it started last week. Their computers were inaccessible with a message demanding money or losing all of their data. We first learned of the hacking attack from a user on Facebook who says:

"The computer system was hacked in their building and are demanding 20,000 dollars or they are releasing all of the workers SSN and private information."

There was fear about delaying payroll for the township's employees, but Thayer tells me they were able to get that resolved. They are also working with an independent cyber-security company to build a new system. There is one spot of good news. They were able to recover backup data that was not infected with the hacker's encryption. The big question mark is what happens to their hijacked data. It does contain employee records but I'm told there should not contain residents' information.

Bullskin Township is located roughly 50 miles outside of Pittsburgh and has a population of nearly 7,000 people

It's not clear how much this will cost the township. As far as tracking down the criminals responsible, that is no easy task. Thayer tells me the township contacted PA State Police when the attack occurred and again today (1 week later) but troopers did not even take a report. So far they have received zero assistance fro state police.

I asked the PA State Police media representative from Harrisburg why troopers would not take a report and she wasn't sure if that type of crime is in their purview. "Computer Crime" is however specifically listed on the Law Enforcement Services portion of their website .

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cyber Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has established a website with information and ways to report ransomware attacks.

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