FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — The Fulton County government is investigating a cybersecurity incident that caused a widespread system outage.
Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts stated Monday afternoon that so far, they are not aware of any transfer of sensitive, personal information regarding employees or citizens.
That said, 11Alive spoke with two cybersecurity experts on what breaches in systems can mean for your personal information and their thoughts about the incident in Fulton County.
Dr. Andy Green is a cyber security expert at Kennesaw State University. He said the hard work is just beginning for those in Fulton County.
“There are some I.T. people who have probably not slept in the last 48 hours,” Green said.
Green said the team likely won’t get any sleep until they get to the bottom of what county officials are calling a “cybersecurity incident” that caused widespread system outages, affecting services like the tax office, phone calls, and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Green explained how these systems are infiltrated.
“Out-of-date software, something that should be exposed that isn’t, or social engineering,” Green said.
CEO of LEARGAS Security, Patrick Kelley, said these attacks are a growing threat.
“We have about one or two data governments cover a data breach for ransomware a week,” Kelley said. “And it’s increasing quick.”
The City of Atlanta was the victim of a cyberattack six years ago. Kelley believes this will keep happening if cities and governments don’t start investing in their technology departments.
“Their budget was cut by about $8 million in 2022. And then, the City of Atlanta and Fulton County had their budgets, again, cut in 2023,” Kelley said.
Kelley explained that when these departments are understaffed, under-resourced, and underpaid, restoring their systems will only take more time.
“If it’s related to a ransomware event, it could easily be weeks, if not months,” Kelley said. “There were some systems in the City of Atlanta during that breach that were never restored.”
For now, Green expects Fulton County to widen its scope over the next few days. And he’s hoping leaders will be transparent about the impact.
“It’s OK to say ‘I don’t know’ for a little bit,” Green said. “As we get further down the road, that becomes less acceptable to the public.”
Kelley said while 911 services and hospitals aren’t typically affected, compromised personal information isn’t off the table.
Green wonders if Fulton County had a comprehensive data backup plan. And if so, was that a part of the cyber attack?
“If you know, for example, that you have given checking account data or credit card data to Fulton County for any reason, right? Don’t panic, don’t go shut, shut them all down and reopen, but be mindful,” Green said.