Atlanta computers hacked in 2017, expert says

I've seen a lot of change in five decades.

Most of it has been for the good, but penmanship is surely a lost art. And I'm still not sure how I feel about the 3-pointer in basketball.

The biggest change? Computers. Everyone loves and hates them and no one can do their job without one.

Well, almost no one.

Somehow, after City of Atlanta computer systems were taken down by a "ransomware attack," folks at City Hall managed to earn their pay without staring at a screen.

Employees were told to turn off their computers last Thursday. Some were allowed to turn them back on Tuesday.

What did office workers do in the interim? I'm told some tried to conduct their affairs using the Victorian era technology known as pen and paper. If the city gets hacked again they may resort to cave drawings.

Security experts are scratching their heads wondering how a major city could be so lax with cybersecurity , but local folks have come to expect such things.

Just before Christmas,  the world's busiest airport was without power because of a fire . "The massive outage left planes and passengers stranded for hours, forced airlines to cancel more than 1,100 flights and created a logistical nightmare during the already-busy holiday travel season," the AJC wrote.

Fires at economically critical airports should be rare. Fires that take out the only source of power and the backup switch are impossible everywhere but here.

Snow? We don't even try to cope. Schools and government offices shut down if someone spots flakes of dandruff.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says the latest kerfuffle is akin to a "hostage situation" and the city can't release as much information to the public as they have to hackers.

Experts hired by Atlanta to fix this mess are more forthcoming , identifying the bad guys as the SamSam hacking crew. Earlier this year an Indiana hospital paid $55,000 for the hackers to restore the files they had encrypted and renamed "I'm Sorry." The group, likely based in eastern Europe and beyond the reach of U.S. authorities, is believed to have extorted more than $1 million from some 30 target organizations in 2018.

Will Atlanta pay the six Bitcoins (about $51,000) the hackers demand? Bottoms wouldn't say.

Atlanta doesn't seem to be a hard target for hackers.

Augusta-based cybersecurity firm Rendition Infosec alleges city computers, including an email server, were also infected last year with leaked exploits  developed by the National Security Agency

"Based on our data, we can say for an organization of its size, the city of Atlanta had a substandard security posture in April 2017, making the scope of the [2018] ransomware attack far from surprising," Rendition founder Jake Williams told

Computer security, like snow, is tricky in Atlanta. I'd like to see that change.

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