JACKSON COUNTY, Ga. — A ransomware attack that impacted Jackson County emergency services and crippled the government’s computer systems cost the rural community $400,000, the county manager confirmed Saturday.
County manager Kevin Poe said that cyber-security consultants hired by the county paid the ransom in the crypto-currency, Bitcoin, which is difficult to trace. Investigators still have not determined how the hackers gained access to the government systems and no arrests have been made.
Ransomware attacks occur when a computer is infected with a deadly virus that moves through a network and spreads to other computers, encrypting data along the way.
Jackson County’s computer system went down late on March 1 or early the next day, Poe confirmed. Many county offices turned to paper while the system was down. Thankfully, the county’s emergency medical services are issued through a third-party, so it had minimal impact on Jackson County’s 911 system.
Officials started the process of clearing the encryption from the county’s computers and servers on Friday.
It's been roughly a year since the city of Atlanta was the victim of an attack and refused to pay the relatively hefty price for the key. The city ended up spending much more to rebuild its networks and begin new safety measures to prevent it from happening in the future. The impact lasted months.
And while paying up may seem like another option, it doesn't always end the problem. Amid other cases of ransomware attacks in 2018, some who did pay the ransom ended up with keys that didn't work.