The city of Ellensburg has been "paralyzed" by hackers who are holding the city’s data hostage and threatening to delete city records unless a ransom is paid, city officials said.
All city departments are impacted by the attack, according to a statement from Ellensburg Police Department Capt. Dan Hansberry, and most of the city’s data and network drives are affected.
The city discovered the attack and realized it had been hit by ransomware Monday, according to the city statement. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the victim’s data and threatens to delete it unless a ransom is paid by a deadline.
In a typical ransomware incident, a user’s system is infected when he or she opens an email attachment with malicious code embedded inside. That infected system allows the ransomware payload to spread across the network before switching on and encrypting all the data it can reach and sending a message to the system’s users telling them they’ve been hacked, and if they want their data back they have to send money to an address overseas.
The statement said the city is working with local and federal law enforcement to investigate the attack and determine the best way to get the city’s services functioning again. He said there’s no estimate for when that would be.
This isn’t the first time the city of Ellensburg has fallen prey to hackers. In 2018 the city wired $185,000 to someone who posed as a legitimate city vendor and submitted an invoice to the city for payment.
Ransomware attacks have happened in cities like Atlanta and Baltimore in recent years, along with school districts and hospital systems around the country.