The Ryuk computer virus is to blame the Jerez City Council having to make a journey back in time. This is the name of the computer virus that has forced the city to go back to using paper instead of computers to handle everyday business. This has caused daily processes to slow considerably.
Jerez isn’t the only European city that has been crippled by hackers in recent weeks. The town of Cadiz has already been practically shut down after a three-day blockade due to a cyberattack that prevents hundreds of workers from accessing files stored on more than 50 servers, despite the fact that its access has been encrypted.
It was last Wednesday morning when the virus penetrated the Consistory’s network. “It has been through emails,” the mayor of Jerez, Mamen Sanchez, said this Friday. The files stored in the system were immediately severed by a virus like ‘ransomware’ – a program that blocks the computer and forces the payment of money to recover the information – which was created last September 27. The sophistication of the attack was impressive. The virus was able to skip the controls of the City Council’s antivirus, according to sources from the City Council.
Given the “scale” of the attack, as defined by Sanchez, the Consistory has asked for help from the Ministry of Interior. It is expected that three experts from the Government will arrive in Jerez over the weekend to collaborate with the computer experts from the Consistory who have already spent three days trying to solve a problem that keeps the local institution with a multitude of procedures blocked.
As soon as it was discovered that it had been attacked, the Town Hall contacted other institutions that had suffered similar violations. “There are many cities that have been affected, the best thing is to talk to them to know how they have been able to resolve, “said Sanchez. The City Council of Jerez has found up to four town halls in the Basque Country, including Bilbao, which were attacked in September. Thanks to this contact, in Jerez they have reached a company that collaborated with the Bilbao City Council and whose technicians will also travel to Cadiz to collaborate in settling the attack.
The Ministry of the Interior’s Cyber Coordination Office points out that this type of attack on both private companies and public administrations is “relatively frequent”. The government institution has been monitoring the case of Jerez since last Wednesday in an attack type ‘ransomware’ that repeats a common modus operandi in this type of data seizure. After encrypting the files, the hacker requests a payment in crypto currency to release the files. Sánchez has confirmed that this step has also taken place in the institution he presides over, but has warned that his government “does not accept blackmail from anyone” and that it does not plan to pay an amount that has not transcended. It was not what happened in the city councils of the U.S. cities of Riviera Beach and Lake City -both in Florida- that agreed to pay the more than 500,000 euros in ‘bitcoins’ that they requested after being blocked for two weeks.
Sanchez referred to both cases to exemplify the size of attacks in the United States alone last year rose to 1,493 ransomware attacks on victims who paid 3,161,484 euros, according to FBI estimates. However, Sanchez has made it clear that no payment is being considered for hackers, although he does intend to release an emergency economic item to pay for the services of the company that helped Bilbao recover access to its files.
While the municipal technicians, Interior and private company are working to neutralize ‘Ryuk’, the operation of the Consistory Jerez has been limited to direct contact with the user and return to the past. “We are doing things as they were traditionally done, on paper, within what can be done,” said Sanchez. The ability of the virus to “multiply” in many others, as explained by the governor, has forced to abandon the use of any municipal computer to prevent further spread of the attack.
“The best thing is to be closed like a bunker”, has exemplified the mayoress of the PSOE. That is what can prevent a data leak that, according to Sanchez, has not occurred. But the collateral damage is the blocking of many procedures related to the network of the City Council that still can not be done. In addition to the municipal website, which continues to fall, the municipality can not attend to formalities such as registration or changes of address that remain completely paralyzed to prevent data leaks.
Even the Aquajerez office, in charge of water management, remains closed due to the impossibility of managing measurements or changes of ownership. Other services of citizen attention and linked to the role as the consultation of the electoral census, the compulsation of documents or marriages and common-law couples -partially- are still active. However, the hundreds of municipal workers affected have continued in these days in their jobs trying to serve users in person “asking for understanding and apologies,” according to municipal sources.