Pottawatomie Co. pays hackers to restore computer systems after cyber attack

Midday in Kansas
Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 9:19 AM CDT
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POTTAWATOMIE CO., Kan. (WIBW) - Officials in Pottawatomie County say computer systems are slowly being restored after a ransom was paid to hackers.

County officials say several of their servers were encrypted during a cyber attack on September 17, 2021.

The county was able to resolve the attack by paying less than 10% of the hacker’s original demands.

“The ransom was reduced by more than 90 percent from hackers’ original demand, an almost unheard-of outcome, every saved dollar of which is taxpayer revenue the county keeps to serve our citizens,” said County Administrator Chad Kinsley.

The amount paid was not disclosed, however, WIBW-TV has filed an open records request to determine the specific amount that Pottawatomie Co. paid to resolve the ransomware attack.

“We are a small county with small resources,” Kinsley said. “With the extraordinary demands that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on local governments like ours, we wanted to make sure that the hackers understood that there was no way we could even come close to meeting their demand,” he said. “We were focused on protecting taxpayers and doing everything we could to resolve the issue with as little as possible. We believe we succeeded at that.”

Pottawatomie Co. says their IT team has installed additional sensors on all servers to detect and prevent further attacks, and is still looking into how hackers gained access to their systems.

Meanwhile, staff is working to get some 150 county desktop and laptop computers back up and running. Officials say that could take up to eight hours per PC.

Officials say most county offices are open and functional, but wait times may be longer than normal for various services.

System still down include county email and driver’s licenses, which is not managed by the county.

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