JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It’s a new work week, but the same computer issues for the City of Jacksonville Beach. A cybersecurity event is still impacting operations, and City leaders met Monday to address the issues.
Fortunately, some systems are back online, but there are still signs up at city buildings across town letting residents know things are not back to normal yet.
“These attacks are on the rise,” said Tyler Chancey, who works in cybersecurity. “They’ve been on the rise really since COVID.”
Chancey works at The Scarlett Group, a cybersecurity company that works with municipalities in Northeast Florida to prepare them against cyber attacks.
He says cities and counties are particularly targeted because of the amount of data they have on file.
“The data is very sensitive within a state, local, federal organization, so people are trying to find ways to counter it,” said Chancey.
First Coast News asked a spokesperson with the City of Jacksonville Beach if the city was the victim of a ransomware attack.
He responded, “Our investigation is ongoing. We are currently working to determine the nature and scope of the issues.”
Chancey says that ransomware became such an issue within governments in Florida, that state lawmakers passed a series of bills requiring municipalities to report the issue within 12 hours along with a summary of the facts and severity level.
Perhaps the biggest policy change came in 2022 – when a bill banned municipalities from paying the ransom.
Chancey says before that law, paying the ransom was fairly common.
“There’s all sorts of risks and legal question marks and gray areas with a government paying a criminal,” said Chancey.
A Jacksonville Beach spokesperson says the city has recovered somewhat since the issue started a week ago.
City staff have regained access to their emails, most city functions can happen with some workarounds and police can file new reports, but have limited access to old ones.
Chancey says getting services back online usually takes a week or so, but recovering data can take months.
“Events like this really highlight the importance of a proper recovery plan,” said Chancey.
The City of Jacksonville Beach provided this full statement at city council Monday night:
“Good evening, members of the City Council, colleagues, and citizens of our community. I would like to provide you with an update on the recent cybersecurity event that has impacted our city’s digital infrastructure. I want to assure you that our team, in collaboration with law enforcement and cybersecurity specialists, is working diligently to address this situation. However, please understand that due to the active investigation into this matter, I am limited in the details I can provide.
First and foremost, I want to emphasize that the safety and well-being of our community remain our top priority. I am pleased to report that our Beaches Energy utility is fully operational, ensuring our energy services remain uninterrupted. Similarly, the Public Works Pollution Control Plant and Water Plants are fully functional, safeguarding our city’s environmental health and public safety.
Our Police Department’s dispatch and processing operations remain fully functional, ensuring no disruption to their vital services to our community.
While we have encountered some challenges with our accounting functions, I want to reassure our employees and vendors that we can process pension payroll and employee payroll. We are also making progress in restoring our ability to pay vendors, albeit in a limited fashion.
Our email system and call centers are functional, which allows us to maintain effective communication within our city government and with our citizens.
Our IT teams and external cybersecurity specialists are conducting a thorough forensic investigation to understand the full scope of this event. Concurrently, we are working diligently to safely and fully restore the technical environment, enhance our cybersecurity posture, and prevent future incidents.
In closing, I express my gratitude for the patience and support of our community during this challenging time. Rest assured, we are committed to resolving this issue as swiftly as possible. We will keep the council and the public informed within the constraints of the ongoing investigation.
Thank you for your attention and continued trust in us to protect and serve our community.”