Mayor: ‘Foolproof backup’ could have made ransomware situation less challenging
It's been nearly a month since Plainfield was struck by hackers who demanded money in exchange for the release of encrypted files, and officials now say if the city had a better system in place to backup their files, the situation might not have presented such challenges.
Plainfield officials last month reached out to state and federal law enforcement authorities for help after the city became the latest victim of ransomware, a type of software that allows hackers to hold certain files for ransom. Mayor Adrian Mapp told NJ 101.5 Tuesday that the NJ State Police Cyber Crimes Unit is still working with the Network Intrusion Unit of the Secret Service to resolve the problem and that a lot of progress has been made in an effort to recover the encrypted files.
“We are working on a solution and we believe that we will be able, in light of what we know now, to get the files back," Mapp said, adding that officials are still not absolutely certain the files will be recovered, but officials remain positive.
The mayor said last month that the ransomware was discovered by employees in the municipal building. He said it entered through one of the computers in the city's finance department and "quickly managed to infiltrate some of the city’s shared servers.”
After the ransomware was discovered, Mapp said that in order to minimize further exposure, the city cut links to backup servers, but a percentage of files had already been encrypted. The mayor said part of the problem was the backup system that Plainfield had in place for it's online files.
"That’s been a part of the problem," Mapp said. "If we had the level of backup that was fool-proof then we wouldn’t be encountering the challenges that we’re facing now."
The mayor said the ransomware infiltration actually encrypted some of the city's backup files. He has not said whether the city will attempt to implement a more secure backup system moving forward.
In March, the Planfield mayor said investigators found the ransom demand among the files that were encrypted. They demand was for 500 euros in bitcoin, which is a digital currency that’s nearly untraceable.
The mayor said last month that many of the files included Word documents, but he has not said if any residents' information was compromised.
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.