According to ZD Net, Jackson County, GA recently paid a $400,000 ransom to cyber-criminals in order to retain access to their IT systems.
The infection, which started March 11, shut down most of Jackson County’s local government’s IT systems, except for its website and 911 emergency system.
The county hired a cybersecurity consultant to help with the case, and ultimately negotiated with the ransomware operators. Jackson County paid hackers $400,000 to “get a decryption key and re-gain access to their ransomed files,” ZD Net says.
Prior to getting access back, Jackson County conducted their everyday business, including compiling reports and arrest bookings, by paper, which was “difficult,” Janis Mangum, sheriff of Jackson County, said in a previous statement.
Jackson County Manager, Kevin Poe, identified the infection as “Ryunk,” which ZD Net says is most likely Ryuk, “a well-known ransomware strain that is currently undecryptable” and thought to operate out of Eastern Europe. The group is infamous for targeting local government, healthcare and large enterprise networks.
Key takeaways for decision makers:
While many companies often ward off or fight fire with fire against cyber criminals, some have their arms twisted too far. That was the case for Jackson County; Poe said that he had to make the call to pay the ransom. This is because it would have costed the county far more money to rebuild its network. “Government officials in Atlanta, Georgia have ended up paying millions to rebuild their IT network following a similar ransomware attack in March 2018, a cost which ballooned from the initially estimated $2.6 million to around $17 million,” ZD Net says.
Plus, if Jackson County hadn’t made the choice to pay the hackers, they would have wasted time, and potentially caused other problems in their workflows. There was also no clear sign as to how long they would have waited to get back online and resume business as usual. “We could have literally been down months and months and spent as much or more money trying to get our system rebuilt,” Poe said.