Hackers seeking to get their hands on the volatile, but lucrative Bitcoin have infiltrated the city of Atlanta’s computer systems, causing widespread disruption in many of its departments.
The culprit, or culprits, sent a letter to the city saying they’d unlock the computers they’d infected once they’re paid $51,000 in Bitcoin.
Atlanta officials alerted on the hack early Thursday morning. They later received a ransom letter in which Bitcoin was demanded. Messages from the culprit were apparently appeared on the computers of several city employees.
The city’s chief operating officer said:
“At approximately 5:40 a.m., Atlanta information management officials were made aware of an outage of various internal and customer-facing applications.”
This includes bill payments and court information services.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, officials stressed that because they were in the early stages of the investigation, they could provide few details. This includes whether they will pay the Bitcoin ransom.
Pulling in the big guns
Atlanta got its nickname as the Capital of the South largely due to it being a major economic hub in the U.S. The world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International, as well as several major companies are based in the city.
With so many major outfits relying on the city, the hack immediately drew attention and swift reactions. While the ransomware attack in which Bitcoin was demanded is a first for the city, the city did not hesitate in pulling out all the stops for help.
On the ground in the city are officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and even the Secret Service.
In these types of ransomware attacks, observers note that the systems are rarely unlocked if the ransom is paid. The reason could be due to the technology being outdated, or simply, the hacker having no intention to keep their end of the bargain.
No matter, observers have also weighed in to say that Atlanta could be in for a long and onerous
road in fully restoring its computer systems. The city seems to be making “just in case” plans in anticipation that the systems could not be fully operational again for some time.
During the press conference, the newly-elected mayor half-jokingly said about next week’s payroll:
“I think I’ll be signing 8,000 [payroll] checks today if necessary. Just saying that to say that we are prepared to do whatever we need to do to make sure our employees are taken care of.”