A Valley city lost all access to their files when a hacker demanded they pay a ransom to get it back.
Two weeks ago, Edcouch city officials noticed things weren’t working the way they should at city hall.
“The phone system is actually connected to the main server so it was down for an hour, hour and a half – came back up,” Edcouch City Manager, Victor Hugo de la Cruz said.
The issue seemed like it had been resolved. But come Monday morning, they realized it was much bigger than they thought.
“Monday when we came back to work, all the computers that are on the network had a ransom note,” de la Cruz said.
That ransom note demanded that the city pay almost $40,000 worth in Bitcoin, a type of online currency that South Texas College’s cybersecurity chair says has proven hard for law enforcement to track in the past.
“Nowadays they don’t want you to wire,” Francisco Salinas said. “They’re not going to ask you for your bank account or they’re not going to give you their bank account where you can send that money. Why? Because that’s going to be very easy for the FBI to track them down.”
The city says the hacker took control of their backup files too, making it impossible for them to access any of the above unless they paid the money.
“It’s not only ransomware that could encrypt those files but also any other type of malware, like a virus for example, that will destroy your data,” Salinas said.
The city is currently working with several government agencies in the investigation, hoping it leads to an arrest.
They want residents to know that there isn’t anything to worry about.
“We’ve reinforced our firewalls, antiviruses, malware – all that. And like I said, you can never be too secure,” de la Cruz said.
Salinas says that ransomware can come in many forms, including as an email link or an attachment and it’s best to avoid unknown senders.