Jackson County Government Capitulates to Ransomware Criminals: Forks over $400k

Jackson County Courthouse

Jackson County Georgia made national news last week but not for a good reason. A group of criminals, suspected of being some Eastern European Crime Syndicate, locked Jackson County out of the county computer systems last week. Currently as reported in the Jackson County Herald, county officials expect to be pretty much back to normal operations later this week after succumbing to the demand to make a ransom payment of $400,000.00. http://www.jacksonheraldtoday.com/archives/15668-County-still-recovering-from-recent-ransomware-attack.html

“They totally crippled us” said county officials of the ransomware hack.
“They demanded ransom,….we had to make a determination on whether to pay. We could have literally been down months and months and spent as much or more money trying to get our system rebuilt.” according to Jackson County Manager Kevin Poe.  https://www.onlineathens.com/news/20190308/cyber-attack-forces-jackson-county-to-pay-400k-ransom 

Evidently, the county either had no back up system for crucial information technology or that back up system proved inadequate. The county paid hackers $400,000 in bitcoin to get back into their systems locked down by the ransomware attack. The ransomware attack locked agencies out of almost all of their systems, including the sheriff’s office, causing the county to try to do business the old-fashioned way—using paper.

Mr. Poe, the County Manager, stated that rebuilding the computer networks from scratch would be a long and costly endeavor. Officials said they were facing closure of operations for many months, paying the ransom was an easier option…so they simply capitulated. https://www.natlawreview.com/article/jackson-county-georgia-pays-hackers-400000-after-ransomware-attack

This situation posed an interesting moral dilemma. All across the globe, official advice is that ransoms should not be paid. The argument is that only if criminals cease to make money will they cease their attacks. But at what point is the moral obligation to protect taxpayer money more important than the moral requirement to fight criminals on a larger scale? There is no easy answer to these questions. The message to local governments everywhere is a resounding warning to have backup IT systems in place and to check frequently to ensure your emergency back up systems are actually up to the task.