December 2, 2022

Backing up Freeport Town’s computer network following a ransomware attack


FREEPORT – The city’s municipal computer network is back up and running after a cyberattack a week ago that was linked to Russian criminals and a global ransomware group, the city manager said on Tuesday.

Logically, a Portland-based national information technology provider shut down the city’s network around 1 p.m. on June 8 after detecting a cyberattack, CEO Peter Joseph said. Although the movement managed to contain the attack, it cut telephone and online communications and disrupted municipal services in all departments.

The attack is accompanied by a ransom demand ordering the city to pay $ 10,000 in cryptocurrency through Avaddon, a ransomware group responsible for numerous malware incidents since 2020, Joseph said. The city did not respond to the note, paid no ransom and suffered no data breaches, he said.

“Our opinion is that the attack was only partially successful and was stopped early,” Joseph said, stressing that no sensitive data had been released, including that of the townspeople.

Joseph said the attack was reported to the Maine State Police’s computer crime unit, but no one had contacted him yet to investigate the incident. It is not known exactly who was behind the attack, Joseph said, but it is believed to be a criminal operation based in Russia or a neighboring republic.

Bleeping Computer, a tech news site, reported on Friday that Avaddon had shut down its ransomware, likely due to mounting pressure from law enforcement and governments around the world, as well as President Biden’s plan to discuss cyber attacks. with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday.

The Freeport cyberattack is the latest on a municipal computer network in Maine and one of a growing number of similar incidents.

The Presque Isle Police Department was hit by an Avaddon ransomware attack that came to light in April, when the city refused to pay a ransom and hackers dumped 200 gigabytes of data on the dark web. And when the Rockport Town office was hit in 2018, city officials didn’t pay a ransom either, and IT staff worked throughout the weekend to restore the encrypted data.

While larger malware incidents like the recent Colonial Pipeline hack are getting a lot of attention, attacks on smaller targets are also wreaking havoc, and many are not in the news. The FBI receives two to three reports of ransomware attacks in Maine each week, the Associated Press reported.

Joseph said the city had security systems to detect the cyber attack and the city’s network was not disabled by the attack.

Municipal offices in Freeport remained open as usual during the phone and internet outage, but this made many basic municipal functions inconvenient or impossible, such as paying property taxes with a credit card or l use of the public library’s computerized book catalog.

Residents could still call for emergency help from the Freeport police and fire department by dialing 911, as the neighboring town of Brunswick has been sending emergency services to Freeport for several years.

Logically, continue to monitor the network at an increased level and a data analysis team is evaluating what happened during the attack, Joseph said. A report on their analysis is expected in two weeks.

For now, Joseph is crossing his fingers and touching wood.

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