Oakland declares state of emergency after ransomware attack

(NewsNation) — A week-long ransomware attack in Oakland, California, has taken some city systems offline, triggering a local state of emergency.

Though emergency services were not affected, several city services were taken down by the attacks. IT specialists are now busy with recovery and restoration, according to the city website.

Most attacks are carried out by sophisticated gangs on the dark web using phishing emails as a way into systems, according to cybersecurity expert Sai Huda.

The Cybercatch CEO also said many hackers are succeeding in getting ransom payouts, often in cryptocurrency, averaging just over $2 million.

“They’re professionally run, they’re about making money. And unfortunately, because there are so many soft targets, they’re easily able to get in. They’re finding this to be a lucrative business,” said Huda.

Ransomware is a form of malware designed to encrypt files on a device, making the files and the systems that rely on them unusable. Hackers will then demand ransom in exchange for the decryption, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The ransomware attack on Oakland began on Feb. 8, less than two weeks after the Department of Justice announced a significant counterattack against Hive, a major hacking group.

“The justice department dismantled an international ransomware network responsible for extorting and attempting to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from victims in the United States and around the world,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Despite this, dozens of cities continued to face ransomware attacks. Hospitals and schools in Boston, Tallahassee and Los Angeles were among those attacked by hackers.

Schools in Des Moines, Iowa, were forced to shut down because a cyber attack compromised transportation routing systems, services and instructional materials last month, according to interim school Superintendent Matt Smith.

According to Cybercatch, eight out of ten medium-size organizations are ill-prepared, and are known to hackers as “soft targets.”

“The defense is weak across the board. Especially municipalities, cities, not for profit organizations that haven’t invested in cybersecurity,” said Huda.

The city of Oakland is still working on bringing its systems back online. NewsNation reached out to several city officials for comment, but is yet to hear back, possibly because of these cyber attacks.


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