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Will cyberattacks on cities become the new norm?



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Updated Mar 29, 2018 15:00 EDT

Atlanta is in recovery mode after last week's cyberattack that paralyzed the city's online network for five days. It was not the only city to be hit lately: a ransomware attack hampered Baltimore's 911 Dispatch system over the weekend resulting in an approximately 17-hour shutdown of automated emergency handling.

Are these worrying signs of cyberattacks? US cities become the new norm?

New York Times reporter Alan Blinder ̵

1; whose recent article on the Atlanta attack called "one of the most sustainable and consistent cyberattacks against a large American city" – "Virtually every expert we talked to said that this is likely to be a reality of modern life. "

" We have seen a number of surveys of chief information officers from governments across the country and they have said that they are attacked very often, "he said. "A quarter of the country's local governments say they try to attack their systems at least once an hour, so it will not go away."

The city of Atlanta has not detailed the attack of the last week Blinder. Officials have said that it includes the encryption of some city data and caused failures for numerous city applications. But it did not affect police and fire department emergency systems, water security or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The hackers behind the attack demanded a ransom – blocking online access to certain locations in the city, leaving residents unable to pay bills, report potholes, or even use the WLAN at the airport. The perpetrators demanded the equivalent of about $ 51,000 in Bitcoin to unlock the closed systems. Blinder said that there is not a word yet about whether the city will pay.

On Tuesday, Atlanta City employees were advised to turn on their computers and printers for the first time since the attack on early Thursday last week. But on Thursday morning, people still could not pay their water bills, Blinder reported.

"It's just a slow recovery process," he said.

Later on Thursday, the city of Atlanta announced the ATL311 website accepted once again online requests for services, including garbage collection and recycling. Last Thursday, ATL311 had disabled the ability to send service requests through the website "while the city was working on restoring systems during the cyberattack," the mayor's office said in a statement.

Experts Say Ransomware exploits known software vulnerabilities, and organizations that fall prey to such attacks often do not have a thorough job of patching systems on a regular basis.

Atlanta was warned months ago that its IT systems could easily be attacked if not rectified immediately, according to an internal audit by CBS subsidiary WGCL-TV. In the 41-page audit submitted to city leaders last summer, the city learned that their IT department was on a livelihood and that there were no formal risk-management processes, the station reports.

"What? That means that all we've heard so far is just general obligations to improve cyber security in the city," Blinder said.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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