WASHINGTON C.H. — The “Ransomware” incident that infiltrated the Fayette County electronic systems on Sunday is still under investigation. In order to keep the public informed, the county commissioners reached out to several offices on Friday.
Ransomware is essentially a malicious software that is designed to keep users from accessing their electronic data. There are different types of Ransomware and some are more destructive than others. Regardless of what type it is, in order to regain access to data, a sum of money (or ransom) typically must be paid or the users risk losing that information permanently.
Fayette County Commissioner Dan Dean said, “The current data is locked down and under investigation. We’re rebuilding servers to try to come back up. At this time as far as we know, no removal of personal information of the public or employees has occurred.”
“We’re not certain we’ve lost anything, we just don’t know what else is in there with it,” said Fayette County Commissioner Tony Anderson.
Anderson explained, “In this goofy world that we live in, if you come home and your back door’s kicked in, you go in, you look around, you go back and you lock the door. Well, maybe the guy’s in the house with you. So we can see it but we don’t know what can happen if we touch it.”
According to Dean, everything is being rebuilt, and moving forward the system will have tighter security than it previously had. He said, “We have had people working around the clock and will continue to work through the weekend to restore service and bring our services back in an easier way to work with.”
Anderson said, “Some of the things that we are probably going to implement are going to look so 1950s. People are going to go, ‘What are you doing?’”
Currently, county workers who are locked out of the system are utilizing pencil and paper, fax, typewriters, phone calls and hand-written receipts.
Employees are scheduled to be paid next week thanks to county auditor Brenda Mossbarger and her staff, according to the commissioners, although it will most likely be by check instead of direct deposit. Bills and invoices will still be processed and paid on a regular schedule.
Property taxes can now be accessed for those who still need to make a payment.
Several county agencies were not impacted by the Ransomware and remain operational, which Dean said was very fortunate for the county. The biggest challenge is communication as the county email remains unusable.
According to Dean, the investigation can take many days to many weeks.
“We’re very happy with the dedication of our employees because they’re wearing themselves out trying to fix things,” said Dean.
Anderson agreed, “And trying to continue to serve the public.”
Fayette County is not the only system to be attacked with Malware. Other government systems in Ohio and throughout the world have also been effected. Dean explained Fayette County was decently equipped to handle the situation and to be aware of what was happening more quickly than many other counties would have found out.
Dean is on the County Risk Sharing Authority (CORSA) Board. CORSA is “a member-owned property and liability risk sharing pool sponsored by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio,” according to corsa.org. CORSA provides broad insurance coverage and comprehensive risk management services to member counties.
Dean explained until two-and-a-half years ago, there was no coverage for cyber events for counties. Cyber coverage was implemented into CORSA, so a great amount of the investigation expense will be reimbursed to the county. CORSA has also lined up the consulting agencies to provide a fast response.
“We don’t want folks to be in the dark and start worrying or fretting over something. We want them to understand. So we’ve been trying to have regular communication throughout the county to make sure everyone knows what to expect,” said Dean.
Any questions regarding this matter can be directed to the Fayette County Commissioners’ office from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday-Friday. The Fayette County Commissioners’ Office is located at 133 S. Main St., suite 401 in Washington Court House and the phone number is 740-335-0720.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.