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Ransomware Attack on Wichita.gov Causes City Network Outage | #ransomware | #cybercrime


(TNS) — The city of Wichita has shut down its computer network in response to a cyber attack, leaving some city services temporarily unavailable and requiring first responders to switch to backup procedures.

“On May 5, 2024, certain City systems were encrypted by malware. In response, the computer network and systems were shut down to prevent the spread of the malware,” a city FAQ states.

The deployment of encrypted malware, oftentimes called a ransomware attack, allows hackers to lock access to files, databases and applications. They can then demand a ransom payment in return for restoring access.


It is not yet clear what if any personal data of Wichitans has been affected by the attack. Some residents pay their water and sewer bills online through a city portal that is currently unavailable. Payment portals for the clerk’s office and the municipal court system were also unavailable Monday morning.

The city says it is conducting “a thorough review and assessment” of the potential data breach and did not respond to an inquiry about the personal data of residents or city employees stored in the network. “Detailed assessments of these types of incidents take time,” the FAQ says.

Federal and local law enforcement have been notified and are investigating the incident while the IT department works with third-party specialists to restore the compromised network.

In response to the FAQ question “What group is claiming responsibility?” the city says no information on the identity of hackers is being shared “for operational security purposes.”

While the network remains down, Wichita’s police and fire departments are relying on backup procedures. “They are prepared for these matters and have switched to business continuity measures where appropriate to continue providing exceptional service,” the city states.

Many departments could not be contacted by phone Monday afternoon, including public works, transit, libraries, neighborhood resource centers, parks and rec, the law department, the prosecutor’s office, human resources, arts and cultural services, the city clerk, the City Council office, and individual fire stations.

Other divisions still had working phones, including the city manager’s office, IT, the municipal court, economic development, purchasing, City Arts, housing and community services and individual police patrol bureaus.

Disruptions

Wichita’s communications team sent out a second FAQ Monday afternoon detailing some of the disruptions to operations.

The city says it will not turn off anyone’s water due to nonpayment of bills during the cyber security incident. Anyone whose water has already been turned off “may bring payment or proof of payment to City Hall and their water will be reconnected,” the FAQ states. Auto payments are currently suspended but bills can still be paid with cash at City Hall or by mail.

According to that release, arrival and departure screens at Eisenhower National Airport are not working but flights continue to operate normally. There is currently no public Wi-fi in the airport terminal.

There is also no internet access at neighborhood resource centers or three library branches — the Advanced Learning Library, Evergreen and Walters. Alford, Angelou, Rockwell and Westlink branches all have public Wi-fi. Books and other materials can still be checked out at all library branches, but checking in materials, pulling holds and transferring materials between branches may be paused.

Municipal court fees must be paid in person. All scheduled dockets will proceed as planned but there is currently no walk-in docket.

Residents hoping to ride city buses or use the landfill will have to pay in cash.

Additionally, upcoming meetings including Tuesday’s City Council meeting and other committee and advisory board meetings may not be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.

“While best efforts will be made to continue streaming any previously streamed public meetings or media opportunities, at this time, please plan to attend any City meetings in person,” the release states.

A city spokesperson did not respond to inquiries asking how the outage could affect the preparation for or response to potential severe weather Monday evening and requesting more information about the police and fire departments’ contingency plans. The FAQ states that “WFD and WPD are responding to calls for service and utilizing paper reports.”

In response to a detailed list of questions, city spokesperson Megan Lovely texted back “We will provide more information when we can.” She acknowledged that city employees cannot currently send or receive emails from their city accounts. “We are working on it,” Lovely said.

The city provided no timeline for when systems will be brought back online, saying only that they will be “restored on a staggered basis to minimize disruptions.”

© 2024 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.





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