Rockdale County government is continuing to work on restoring its computer network after a cyber attack on Feb. 7, officials said.
At On Common Ground Newspress deadline on Feb. 13, several steps were still being taken to scour any viruses on the computer network and get the government systems that were paralyzed back up and running. The laborious work, under Rockdale Director of Technology Al Yelverton, could continue into the week of Feb. 17, County spokesman Jorge Diez said. All of the county’s computers, including the Rockdale Sheriff’s Office, 911 emergency services and court systems, share the same computer system, Diez said.
Diez also said that as of Feb. 13, the county remained unable to process water bill payments. He said the public would be notified via social media and through news outlets once those operations are restored. He said customers would not be charged late fees during the grace period.
“If your water bill is due now, you don’t have to worry about it for now—being disconnected or charged late fees,” Diez said.
Rockdale County Magistrate Court Judge Phinia Aten posted on Facebook that all new and existing case filings may be timely submitted. However, docketing and e-filing acceptance in Odyssey, she said, would be delayed until the network is fully restored. Judge Aten said for more information, the Magistrate Court may be reached at 770-278-7800.
Rockdale County officials held a news conference on Feb. 10 to notify the public of the most recent cyber attack. An attack on the government’s computer network also was made in May 2017.
County officials said they immediately contacted the Georgia Technology Authority, GBI, Homeland Security and other federal agencies about the recent attack.
“Rockdale County is in a very critical state with the ransom ware attack… We don’t take these ransom ware attacks lightly at all. This is a major interruption to the productivity of Rockdale County and all hands are on deck,” Rockdale Board of Commissioners Chairman Oz Nesbitt, Sr. said. “We’re doing everything we can to mitigate the problem.”
Nesbitt said that the attack has not impacted public safety, including the county’s 911 emergency system.
“Public safety is No. 1 and it is completely under control,” Nesbitt said. He said the public is still able to call 911.
The county went into an emergency mode on Feb. 7 after a county employee opened an infected e-mail attachment. The county’s quick intervention prevented a complete shutdown of key operations, officials said. Officials said the biggest impact has been on the county’s inability to process water bill payments. The county has 28,000 water customers. Officials said that customers’ personal information, including credit cards used for payments, was not compromised during the attack.
Nesbitt said the county had dealt with one other cyber attack before the Feb. 7 event. In May 2017, county operations were completely shutdown about a week and a half as a result of the infiltration from an outside source, Nesbitt said. Nesbitt said that luckily, that attack happened during a holiday weekend and the county was able to mitigate the problem.
Typically, hackers demand a ransom when crippling computer networks. No ransom was paid in 2017 and no ransom has been demanded or paid in the most recent attack, officials said.
“At this juncture, there’s been no request for payment,… As it stands now, everybody that we have spoken to said there is less than a 50 percent chance that if we were to pay, we would get a satisfactory result,” said Yelverton, who came aboard as Rockdale’s director of technology in December 2017 after the county’s first cyber attack.
Meanwhile, the county is stepping up its training and education for county employees concerning e-mails. Nesbitt said he wants to make sure that employees do not unknowingly open emails that appear to be official county business or other sources that may not be legitimate.
“Oftentimes, these attacks occur with very innocent-looking postures but there’s often a link associated with these e-mails and an employee without knowing can easily click on that link and really create a world of problems for our operationshere in Rockdale County,” Nesbitt said.
Rockdale joins several municipalities affected by the rising number of ransom ware attacks including most recently, the cities of Dunwoody and Atlanta.