City of Muscatine responds to cyber attack

Published: Oct. 23, 2018 at 6:39 PM CDT
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Muscatine officials are still figuring out exactly how their city hall and library were infected with ransomware just a week ago, but for the time being they're going completely paper - shutting down all computers.

"It's amazing how reliant you get to be on these computers," said Muscatine Communications Manager, Kevin Jenison. But, Jenison says it could've been worse. "The other city services - public works, the police and fire departments, MUSCOM - they're all up and running and 100% capable of providing public safety and all the necessary things they do."

The recent attack has put into perspective just how quickly things can change with today's technology. "You get kind of laxed and maybe not as vigilant. You feel very confident with the security software that you have but you got to remember these hackers they're getting better everyday," said Jenison. "It's been a learning experience for me and it's been a learning experience for the staff."

The recent cyber attack shouldn't have community members of Muscatine worried, though. Ransomware just encrypts documents, making it harder to obtain them, but it doesn't compromise or delete any information.

"If you've used credit card information with us, we don't keep that so you don't have to worry about that," said Jenison. "This type of attack just encrypts the files they don't disappear and they don't steal them, so that was important for our employees to know - their personal information was not compromised."

The Musser Public Library has noticed a drop in interaction since having to shut down their computers, too. "We have had an impact, we're not seeing as many people coming in during the day in particular," said library director, Pam Collins. "Our daytime crowd is really reduced and we have a lot of people asking where can I go to use a computer? Which is a difficult thing in our community."

City officials have praised the IT department for their reaction to the problem and how they've been working nonstop to get the situation fixed.

"It's been an interesting experience, one I don't wish upon anybody," said Jenison. "But in this day and age this type of attack can happen to anybody."

Jenison says the most difficult thing during this process is people realizing they can't pay for tickets or permits online like they're used to.

They will have to come into city hall and do those things in person until they can reboot their systems.

The FBI cyber crime unit has been working with local law enforcement to fix the issue. There's a meeting on Wednesday, October 24th to discuss where Muscatine is right now and what the next step will be.