Small Towns Confront Big Cyber-Risks

Government Technology: On Feb. 25, 2016, a civilian employee in the Sarasota, Fla., Police Department clicked on an attachment to an email. Instead of opening a document, the worker inadvertently launched a ransomware attack that encrypted 160,000 city files and triggered an extortion that demanded up to $33 million in the virtual currency known as bitcoin to unlock them.

The situation was so dire that the city’s IT department literally had to unplug the city’s computer system and then spent the following night getting rid of the malware and restoring its systems. City IT Director Herminio Rodriguez later told city investigators, “In 25 years, that was the worst disaster I’ve ever encountered. It was an end-of-life event from the IT perspective.”

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