LUCEDALE, Miss. (WKRG) – Official George County computer systems were targeted in a cyber ransom attack that County officials described as a ‘blunt force attack from all angles.’
“It feels like a digital hurricane… In a lot of ways, it feels like getting ready for a storm that has already arrived,” said Ken Flanagan, George County Communications Director.
The cyberattack began on Saturday, and Flanagan said the attack breached their systems on Sunday night. Ken Flanagan said the attack is a classic example of a phishing scam.
“The email in question looked extremely professional,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan said a county employee likely clicked on that email, leading to the system meltdown that affected 130 county employees.
The identity of the hacker is unknown; however, Flanagan said the hacker is willing to hold the entire George County computer system hostage for ransom.
“They left us a file. Inside the file, there is a bank account with Bitcoin, and if you pay the Bitcoin, then you get all your encrypted files back,” Flanagan said.
The County backed up their computer system and database on Friday evening, one day before the attack began. Flanagan said they are rebuilding the system off of that backup.
“We are starting with or primary server, and then we’re going to go to office to office, computer to computer. Update the security, clean out the system and rebuild them,” Flanagan said. “I guess our one big saving grace was all of or laptops that were not hooked up to the server over the weekend, they have not been affected.”
Although he didn’t think personal or financial information was obtained, Flanagan said George County employees should check their personal bank accounts periodically to look for suspicious activity.
The Department of Justice is investigating through the Federal Bureau of Investigation along with the State of Mississippi.