COLONIE — The town’s computer system was hacked, and the cyber extortionists are asking for about $400,000 in Bitcoin cryptocurrency to unlock it.
But, said Supervisor Paula Mahan, the town is operating on a backup system that is allowing day-to-day operations to continue.
“We have all of our data and our backup system is working as it should be working,” she said. “We have an integrated team working on things, and as of right now it appears we have done everything properly and the process is going well so we are going to let them finish up their analysis and we will go from there.”
No taxpayer information has been compromised, she said. Right now, the backup system allows the town to function normally, if not a little slower than usual.
In a ransomware cyberattack, the hacker locks a system and demands a ransom before granting the system’s user access to its own data. In this case, Mahan said the dollar amount in the Bitcoin demanded is just shy of $400,000.
Mahan said she got a call about the ransom from her technology department late Wednesday night, and since then the team of federal, state and local law enforcement, town employees and private companies are in Town Hall working through the problem.
It is still too early to determine what the long term impact to the system will be if any. She said as of right now, the plan is to not pay the hackers the ransom.
“Things like this have been happening in other municipalities and most recently at the airport,” she said. “It is the way things are in the world today and you have to be prepared for it. We have an excellent backup system in place, we are functioning fine and we are moving in the right direction.”
Until the team finishes its analysis it is impossible to determine where the ransomware originated, and even then it may be difficult to pinpoint. Bitcoin is a computer based monetary system that allows an astounding degree of anonymity. The value of Bitcoin varies, but as of Friday, Jan. 17, one Bitcoin was worth $8,795.44 in U.S. currency.
The City of Albany was the subject of a similar attack in March, 2019, and was able to restore all computer systems without paying the hackers a ransom. It did, though, have to pay some $300,000 to rebuild its main system, according to the Times Union.
Earlier this month, the Albany International Airport paid a five-figure sum in Bitcoin to the hackers to regain access to its system. The airport’s insurance carrier paid the ransom, and the exact dollar amount is not known at this time but it was less than $100,000. There were issues with the age of the system and a lack of separation between the main system that was hacked and the airport’s back up system.
The team is still at Colonie Town Hall working on unlocking the main system, or the town could be forced to abandon the existing system and rebuild like the City of Albany.
More information as it becomes available.