Updated: Dec 31, 2019
Johannesburg - South Africa's largest city, has recently fallen victim to a ransomware attack leaving it's citizens unable to pay their electric bills - successfully shutting down power to many people in the area.
What is Ransomware?
According to google it's "A type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid."
And according to Johannesburg, in a series of tweets it looks like someone locked up their online portal that controls applications such as payments and account information - which disrupts the operations of paying their utility bills. Since Johannesburg runs off of a prepaid utility system, you get shut off as soon as you don't pay, so this is becoming a huge problem for the city to deal with. Let this be a lesson to businesses that it's worth paying attention to your network security and infrastructure. Invest in a great IT department and cyber-security, because it will cost you more to pay off a ransomware than a dedicated IT person! *Cough cough*
According to CityPowerJhb's twitter account it looks like they are on their way to restoring the software and isolating the applications affected. If it were me I would be more worried about making sure that after the attack they don't just let customers payments become monitored by an over-sought malware application.
Just today, Louisiana Governor John Edwards declared a State of Emergency after 3 consecutive ransomware attacks targeting school districts. The state of emergency basically just limits local IT departments from inflating their prices to take advantage of the incident in the meantime. It's a double edged sword really - IT and cyber-security is an extremely hard thing to grasp and it takes years of experience and learning to understand. So schools, businesses, states, and other authorities don't invest in a strong systems IT department and get screwed. Then declare a state of emergency so they can't make money off of it and get screwed twice. I hope that cyber-security is taken more seriously after this huge wave of attacks.
The letter from the school reads:
"Attention! On July 8, 2019, the Monroe City School System experienced a disruption to its computer systems. We immediately notified our Information Technology service providers and retained independent, third-party cybersecurity experts to investigate this matter.
While there are problems with system connectivity, we have no reason to believe there is any public safety issue. We also have no indication that there was any unauthorized access of sensitive or private information. We also believe that full connectivity will be restored in the near future.
We have notified law enforcement and are cooperating with authorities to assist their investigation. That investigation is ongoing."