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Posted on: August 9, 2018

Press Release: City Continues Response Following Cyber Attack

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release: 08/07/2018 8:00 a.m.

Valdez, AK – The City of Valdez continues recovery efforts after a ransomware cyber attack on its municipal information technology infrastructure in late July.

On July 27th, City personnel identified a computer virus in the City’s IT infrastructure. The virus, which appears to be a type of ransomware, effectively encrypted all electronic data stored on the City’s network. Hackers use ransomware to encrypt or lock data so it cannot be read or used. They then demand a ransom to provide tools to unlock the encryption. Standalone or cloud-based systems, including the City’s phone network, were unaffected by the malware.

“VPD’s criminal investigation into the ransomware attack on the City continues in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” said Bart Hinkle, Valdez police chief and operations section chief for the cyber incident response. “Due to the ongoing investigation, specific details cannot be released at this time. However, I want to assure the public that the integrity of our technology infrastructure and the preservation of data is a top priority. To date, there is no evidence to suggest any information has been taken from our system.”

Immediately following the attack, the City’s IT department worked quickly to isolate the City network from the internet as well as isolate internal connections between City servers and individual computers to prevent further infection. City personnel notified the FBI and enlisted help from several Alaska-based malware response and recovery industry specialists.

“We also reached out to other municipalities recently infected by similar viruses to determine best practices,” said Matt Osburn, City information technology director. “This approach has been mutually beneficial for recovery efforts and while proactively planning to rebuild our IT network in a way that prevents similar issues from occurring in the future.”

Valdez Mayor Pro Tempore, Dennis Fleming, declared a local government disaster on July 27th and extended the declaration on August 3rd to aid in procurement of necessary supplies and time sensitive assistance from recovery specialists. Valdez City Manager Elke Doom also implemented the Incident Command System to simultaneously deal with the cyber attack while also ensuring essential City operations continued to function.

“Our current response tactics fall under four key objectives,” said Elke Doom, who also serves as the incident commander for the cyber attack response. “The first objective was to ensure potentially infected systems were quarantined to prevent further contamination and preserve evidence. The other three objectives include the law enforcement criminal investigation, rebuilding our long term infrastructure, and continuity of City operations to ensure our residents and visitors experience as little impact from this event as possible.”

Members of the public should expect the following impacts to City services over at least the next couple of weeks:

• All City emergency services, including police, fire, and EMS, remain operational. No interruption of emergency services occurred due to the cyber attack.

• All City financial services are now fully operational. Cashier locations at City Hall, the Civic Center, the Animal Shelter, and other City facilities have been restored to include the ability to look-up citizen utility, property tax, and other accounts. UPDATE (0809018): The City Hall front office is the primary location for citizens wishing to look-up information about their utility or property tax accounts. Other City cashier locations do not provide this service. The harbor and port offices, which use a separate, maritime specific software program, are currently unable to look up harbor or port customer account information.

• All City departments continue to work with limited computer and data access. Many formerly electronic processes, such as building permitting or Council/Commission agenda packets, have moved into paper form for the near future. The City landline and cell phone systems were unaffected by the cyber attack and remain fully functional.

• Regular employee email remains unavailable. Due to the nature of the email server quarantine, those attempting to email City staff will not receive an error message or have their email “bounced back”. Primary contact method for City staff is by phone or fax. Citizens may access the City phone directory by visiting www.ci.valdez.ak.us or by calling the main City phone number at (907) 835-4313.

• The City website and other cloud-based programs were unaffected by the attack. However, the City meeting agendas webpage cannot be updated until at least next week. Please contact the City Clerk’s office @ (907) 834-3468 for the most up-to-date City Council and Commission meeting schedules.

• The Community Development Department is temporarily unable to offer GIS or electronic research assistance.

• Answers to inquiries regarding slip availability at the Valdez Boat Harbor may take longer than normal, as the process is temporarily being managed utilizing paper files instead of an electronic database. Additionally, July billing statements for harbor users will be delayed.

• Current Capital Facilities projects are underway and on schedule. Those responding to bid postings should pay close attention to submission instructions. In the near term, City project invoices should be hand delivered, sent by postal mail, or faxed to the Capital Facilities Department at (907) 835-5574.

• The Port of Valdez is temporarily unable to register new users for access to the Valdez Container Terminal. All existing registered TWICs remain fully functional at the facility. UPDATE (0809018): Based on the download cycle for the port's TWIC user database, TWICs registered prior to mid-June remain fully functional. Those registered after mid-June may experience difficulty utilizing their TWIC to access the VCT. Please contact the Port office at 835-4564 for additional information or to learn more about escort requirements for the federally regulated VCT facility.

• The Human Resources Department continues to accept either paper employment applications or online employment applications through www.NeoGov.com.

• With the exception of general limitations listed above, the following City services and facilities remain operational: All City emergency services, Valdez Animal Shelter, animal control, public works (streets, shop, water, sewer, baler, and landfill), permitting and licensing, Valdez Pioneer Field Airport, port and harbor facilities, Valdez Regional Jail, Valdez Swimming Pool, Ike Woodman Recreation Center, Valdez Consortium Library, Valdez Civic Center, and scheduled City events.

• Citizens or visitors with questions or concerns regarding access to City services during recovery from the cyber attack should contact the City Public Information Office for assistance at (907) 834-3468 or covaldezpio@gmail.com.

Posted 08/07/2018
Allie Ferko
City of Valdez Public Information Officer
Office (907) 834-3468
Cell (907) 202-0711
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