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'Most systems are offline': Ransomware hack cripples City of Racine

Posted at 5:36 PM, Feb 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-03 18:50:50-05

RACINE — The City of Racine said it’s the victim of a cyberattack that has left its digital systems crippled. Racine Mayor Cory Mason said core government services may not be available until next week due to the hack.

The ransomware hack means the city’s website, email and voicemail capabilities are all down. Typically cyber hackers are after money, but Mason said the city won’t be paying a dime.

The ransomware hack was evident for those who visited the Racine Police Department on Monday. Signs on the front doors read ‘Computers are down, limited payments accepted and no reports available.'

“It’s shocking,” said DeEtta Smith of Racine. “I don’t know too much about it, but I hope it gets resolved quickly.”

Mason said the city’s computer systems were infected Friday morning.

“For now, most systems are offline,” said Mason.

Cybercriminals encrypted files and software for the city’s 700 employees.

“Nobody has contacted us demanding a ransom and even if they did the city would not pay it,” Mason said.

Mayor Cory Mason gives update on City of Racine system breach

Mason said state and federal agencies have been notified of the issue. A specialist for the city’s cyber insurance provider believes the cause was likely a phishing email opened by a city employee.

Alex Holden is a cybersecurity expert in Mequon.

“Based on what we are seeing, this was simply a click on an affected email,” Holden said.

Holden believes cybercriminals in Russia are behind this hack and they’re holding out for a payday.

“They usually look for hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars,” Holden said.

Mason said computer specialists will work throughout this week to rebuild the city’s computer systems rather than resorting to taxpayer dollars.

Racine residents are urged to visit city hall to pay property taxes and vote absentee. 911 emergency dispatching and other public safety systems were not affected by the hack.

Rob Cheng, CEO of PC Matic, issued the following statement regarding the ransomware attack:

"Our nation is at war – a cyber war. While cybersecurity is far from a simple issue, there is much we should be doing to strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity resilience. It’s far past time for state and local leaders across the country to recognize the importance of this issue and to employ cybersecurity practices that would increase the cyberhealth of the community and prevent attacks like these from happening in the first place."

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