Albany Works Through Impact of Ransomware

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City officials in Albany, New York, have been working for several days in an effort to restore the city’s systems after it became the latest municipality to be hit with a ransomware attack.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced the ransomware attack via social media on March 30, and today the mayor’s office released an availability update alerting citizens that marriage licenses and marriage certificates are available at the city clerk’s office.

All other city services continue to be available to the public, except for those seeking copies of birth or death certificates, who were advised to visit New York State's vital records customer service lobby.

During a press hearing at City Hall on Monday, April 1, Mayor Sheehan said, "Throughout this entire incident we were always able to provide public safety services. At no point in time was our ability to dispatch police or fire to emergencies impacted by this, and we were able to work throughout the weekend to ensure that today we are able to transact business with our residents, whether they are looking to come in and make payments, apply for building permits or apply for parking permits, so all of those functions are opened.

“The only thing that is currently not available in this building are those who are seeking copies of birth certificates, death certificates or marriage certificates. They will be accommodated at the New York State Vital Records in Menands, and so that address is up and available on the city website. We also are not at this point in time taking marriage license applications."

Additional details about the attack and the cause of the incident are not being disclosed at this time.

Ransomware attacks have previously taken down systems in other major cities, including Atlanta, Georgia, and Alexandria, Virginia.

“A recent analyst study determined that, like the City of Albany, 50 percent of surveyed organizations have suffered an unrecoverable data event in the last three years, and while preventing these attacks is not always possible, diminishing the threat is,” said Caroline Seymour, director of product marketing at Zerto.

Because ransomware attacks can have a much larger impact than temporarily denying access to systems in exchange for payment, Justin des Lauriers, technical project manager at Exabeam, said, “The demanded ransom amounts often pale in comparison to the collateral damage and downtime costs they cause.

“The ideal case would be to detect and stop ransomware before an infection occurs. Unfortunately, this insidious software is almost always detected after the damage has already occurred – it having reached the ‘payday’ stage of the ransomware kill chain (where the hacker demands ransom).”

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