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Hackers Shut Down Atlanta Government Computers and Demand Bitcoin

March 23, 2018, 1:35 PM UTC

Hackers have shut down key systems across computers in Atlanta, preventing the city from processing payments or accessing courthouse information in one of the boldest ransomware attacks to date.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, announcing the attack in a press conference Thursday afternoon, said officials “don’t know the extent of the attack,” but that anyone who has done business with the city—both consumers and businesses—is potentially at risk.

“We don’t know the extent or if anyone’s personal data or bank accounts will be compromised,” she said. “All of us are subject to this attack.”

The city has not yet given any updates on Friday.

Not affected, apparently, are public safety, water, and airport operations, noted Atlanta COO Richard Cox. City officials are working with the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, along with Microsoft, to determine the depth of the breach and how to resolve it.

FILE PHOTO: A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand, provided by cyber security firm Symantec
A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand, provided by cyber security firm [hotlink]Symantec[/hotlink], in Mountain View, California on May 15, 2017.Symantec Handout/Reuters
Symantec Handout/Reuters

The hackers themselves are demanding $51,000 in Bitcoin to reverse their work, says local TV station WXIA.

The attack was first discovered around 5 a.m. Thursday morning. The city put up a notification that morning that it was “currently experiencing outages on various internal and customer facing applications, including some applications that customers use to pay bills or access court-related information.”

Atlanta’s not the first city to be hit by ransomware hackers. Last December, officials in Mecklenburg county, N.C.—where the state’s largest city, Charlotte, is located—found itself in a similar situation. Officials in that area refused to pay the Bitcoin ransom.