City of Port Lavaca hit by “aggressive” computer virus

Attack has cost the city nearly $50K

PORT LAVACA, Texas- On February 3rd Monday evening shortly after 5 p.m., the City of Port Lavaca was hit by a very aggressive computer virus. According to James Dale, the City’s IT provider, “The agents generally strike after hours expecting no one to be working on the system.

We were in the process of improving security for the City’s infrastructure that evening and were able to stop the attack mid-course.” The virus entered city hall through the email system. The individuals that attacked the City however, were able to do significant damage to disable the City’s computer system.

City Manager William DiLibero stated, “The attack brought down our billing system. Our online and auto payment systems are out of service and we have gone back to our older collection and payment processes. Staff are collecting cash, check and credit card payments at City Hall. We will need to rebuild our database in order to get the payment system back to full operational status. The City has worked with State and Federal agencies to address this attack.

DiLibero stated the City is working with companies associated with our Municipal League Insurer to assist in recovery of encrypted data and cleaning individual workstations. The City is not alone in facing these attacks. Both Jackson County and the City of Ingleside have recently faced similar attacks.

During the time of the Port Lavaca attack, the Department of Information Services were working with a number of cities in North Texas who has also just been attacked. The city has made progress in preparing to rebuild its system back to normal operating status, but there is not a timetable on when the system will be fully restored.

DiLibero announced, during the city council meeting Feb. 10, the city has a network in operation and a computer in each department on the network, along with the main printer, copier and scanner. Water, sewer and the police data systems were not affected by the virus.

The city ordered a new server to be able to take secure files, check them for data, and put them on the new server. “The city’s Mayor, Jack Whitlow, said city officials are scrubbing the servers of the virus to get their system back into working order. The attack has cost the City up to nearly $50,000, most of which insurance will cover.

Whitlow said individual information is not being stolen or compromised through the virus. It is designed to encrypt files and hold the City for ransom. Port Lavaca officials are not handling the ransom negotiations, Whitlow said he will leave that to the FBI. He said he does not plan on the city paying a ransom, which started at over $200,000. The preference is to pay the people in town to fix it and keep the money in the community. Whitlow said.

DiLibero stated that the City is evaluating recommendations for future data protection. Staff and the City’s IT provider along with State officials will be evaluating the options for data security. The options involve data back-up by each of the software companies the City contracts with or working with our IT provider to provide one uniform back-up system. It will come down to the level of protection provided.

 

The information in this article was provided in a statement from the City of Port Lavaca. 

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