georgia county courthouse

Georgia Court System Goes Offline After Ransomware Attack

The attack, which was discovered Monday, comes shortly after two Florida cities agreed to pay ransoms in order to recover their computer systems from hackers.

The digital infrastructure for the Georgia court system was knocked offline Monday causing the court’s website to come down. The reason? Ransomware — a cybersecurity threat that has derailed the operations of American cities and companies across the country in recent years.

The deployment of ransomware — malicious software that locks computer systems and files until a ransom is paid — has become increasingly common, targeting cities like Atlanta and Baltimore, which is still in the midst of recovering from a May attack. Most recently, in June, two Florida cities agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to hackers in return for control of their computer systems.

The attack on the Georgia court system does not seem to be on the same scale as the 2018 Atlanta shutdown, which had severe impacts on the city’s utilities, parking and court services. Court officials decided to take their entire network offline after discovering a note that requested contact and contained no further details, not even a payment demand.

No private information was compromised as a result of the attack since the system does not store private information that is not considered public documents, courts spokesman Bruce Shaw told 11 Alive News in Atlanta.

“Our systems have been compromised, so we have quarantined our servers and shut off our network to the outside," Shaw said.

The court’s website remained offline on Tuesday, and Georgians hoping to file court documents online will have to go to a courthouse for the time being.

The Department of Homeland Security considers ransomware to be “the fastest growing malware threat” targeting both individuals and organizations, according to CBS News. The technology is also incredibly costly: Atlanta has spent $7.2 million recovering from the attack, including the $52,000 price it paid to the hackers to unlock the system.

While there is no single solution to prevent or address ransomware attacks, there are several steps companies and institutions can take to secure their systems. In his February piece for Security Today, VectorUSA’s Patrick Luce wrote that having the right cybersecurity solutions in place now “will go a long way” toward helping organizations recover from ransomware attacks later.

“By setting up basic security technologies and sound management processes now that will limit your ransomware exposure, you’ll be much better prepared to stay in business or operation should you become a victim of a ransomware attack,” Luce wrote.

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