Oakland Declares State of Emergency Due to Ransomware Attack

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Oakland Interim City Administrator G Harold Duffey on Tuesday issued a local state of emergency due to "ongoing impacts" of network outages caused by ransomware, the city announced on Twitter. 

The declaration of the emergency will allow the city to expedite its attack on the malicious software. 

A ransomware attack occurs when someone encrypts files and demands ransom to decrypt them. The encryption makes the files and the systems that rely on them unusable, according to the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. 

Oakland was the victim of a ransomware attack that began Wednesday night, police and city officials said Friday. 

The emergency declaration will assist with equipment and materials and the activation of emergency workers as the city seeks to safely restore its systems. 

The city's information technology department is working with law enforcement to determine the scope and severity of the attack. 

City officials did not release the amount of ransom the attackers are asking for, nor the extent of the attack. 

As of Friday, the attack was not affecting residents' ability to call 911. Nor has it affected the city's financial data or fire resources, though at least one city department was unable to file its timecards due to the attack. 

The public also can still file crime reports on the city's website. The city said residents and visitors can expect delays in hearing from city staff and officials. 

Because of the attack, the information technology department has taken down impacted computer systems.

"The City is appreciative of the community for their patience as staff across the organization work collaboratively to minimize disruptions and implement workarounds to normal business processes that allow the City to continue delivering services," tweeted the city of Oakland account on Tuesday evening.

David Green, of Oakland, is hoping to file a police report in-person, after someone stole his cell phone. But doing so has required a lot of patience.

“It seems like it’s kind of ridiculous ... I come down here and I’ve been here for over an hour,” he said. “And the people over there, she said she’s been here for about two hours already so, I don’t know.”

Residents trying to file a report, pay for fees and / or connect with city leaders say it's been “nearly impossible.”

Councilmember Noel Gallo said city hall has pretty much been closed since the attack.

So, residents are going old school, sending him actual letters to address their concerns.

“We need to take this as a warning of broader attack threats and harden our security at all levels,” said Sachin Bansal, SecurityScorecard chief business officer.

The cybersecurity expert said Oakland was particularly vulnerable, due to its older systems and limited resources. Which is common in many local governments.

“Having continuous monitoring of yourself, your suppliers, that’s really key,” he said.

The city says it’s working with forensics, cybersecurity and tech firms to restore services.

It’s also investigating the attack with federal and state officials.

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