Ransomware Attack Hits Lake County, Ind., Government Computers

The county doesn't have plans to pay a ransom

A ransomware attack has crippled the Lake County, Ind., government's computer systems, and as a result, county employees haven't had email access for more than two weeks, officials said. 

Ransomware often spreads through emails containing malicious links or attachments or by visiting a compromised website. According to the FBI, more than 1,400 ransomware attacks were reported in 2018, and victims reported paying $3.6 million to hackers.

Mark Pearman, executive director of Lake County's data processing office, said it is unclear where the virus came from, and the county won't pay a ransom.

"We just went in, and unplugged all of [the] servers off of the network," he said. "We have 64 servers... unplugged them all and started scanning." 

The Lake County police chief said the attack posed a safety hazard for his officers who rely on intelligence from outside law enforcement agencies, but added the attack hasn’t impacted police radio communications or confidential information.

One county official described the attack as an “administrative nightmare” for daily operations. Instead of using email, employees resorted to using more traditional forms of communication including phones and faxes.

The county said there was no indication of a security breach, and that the attack only impacted email servers, and didn’t affect any databases.

Email was back up and running at the Lake County Sheriff's Department by Friday afternoon. Officials hoped to have county-wide email available by the end of the day on Sunday. 

More than 20 local governments in Texas were targeted in a coordinated ransomware attack in August.

In July, officials in LaPorte County paid about $132,000 to "bad actors" to recover data after a virus infected 7% of the county's server network. 

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