Oakland ransomware attack prompts emergency but few answers from city officials
on February 16, 2023
Oakland City Council called a special meeting Thursday to proclaim a local emergency from a cyber attack that has ensnared the city’s computer systems for the past week.
The resolution was needed for the city to take the next step in asking the governor’s office to issue a state of emergency that would enable Oakland to recover costs associated with the attack. Members of the public and the media expressed disappointment that city officials and the council didn’t answer more questions about the attack.
Several people asked what specific systems were targeted, what the the attack was costing the city and if individuals’ data had been breached. They received little information or reassurance.
Interim city Administrator G. Harold Duffey defended the city’s stance, saying anything officials disclose about the city’s defenses could make it more vulnerable to the hackers. He said vital services were taken offline to protect the system, which has to be scrubbed and slowly restored. He added, that emergency services, including the 911 system, were intact and operational. By next week, he said, the computer system should be more functional.
Oakland joins a long list of U.S. cities to be a victim of ransomware, which the U.S. government describes as a form of malware that encrypts files, rendering them and the systems they are a part of unstable. Ransom typically is demanded in exchange for decryption.
City officials do not know who perpetrated the attack, Duffey said. Asked which specific law enforcement agencies were investigating, he said only, “all the appropriate agencies.”
As for whether employment or other confidential information may have been breached, Duffey said it’s too soon to tell, but that people would be notified if their personal information was exposed.
Residents were directed to the city’s website, oaklandca.gov, for updates.
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