Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at a recent luncheon at the Atlanta Press Club in Atlanta. On Tuesday, the mayor urged Congress for funding to help cities prevent cyberattacks. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Casey Sykes
Photo: Casey Sykes

Atlanta mayor to Congress: Cities need funding to stop cyberattacks

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Tuesday told the U. S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security that the federal government should provide more resources to help cities prevent cyberattacks like the one that struck Atlanta more than 14 months ago.

Bottoms said the government should also provide emergency funding to cities during cyberattacks so that they can better respond to the threat.

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The cyberattack caused myriad issues as Atlanta tried to get its systems back online.

Cyberattacks are the equivalent of a disaster, Bottoms said.

“The good news is that Atlanta is rebounding from this attack and sharing its experience with other cities,” Bottoms told lawmakers.

In March, 2018, the city told its employees to shut off their computers to stop a virus from spreading through the network and encrypting data.

A cyber criminal group demanded about $51,000 in bitcoins — a cryptocurrency that allows for anonymous transactions online — in exchange for unlocking the data.

The city refused to pay the ransom.

Bottoms told the committee that critical services such as fire, police and ambulance services and the water supply were not affected.

But some departments suffered irreparable damage, Bottoms said.

Years of Atlanta Police footage from officers’ patrol cars was lost. The city’s municipal court couldn’t operate for weeks. And the watershed department could only accept payments at City Hall.

This past November, the U. S. Department of Justice indicted two Iranian men for carrying out the attack. According to the justice department, the pair inflicted harm on more than 200 victims across the country and collected roughly $6 million in ransom over a three year period dating back to 2015. Their scheme caused over $30 million in losses to various entities, according to federal authorities.

Bottoms said the two men have not yet been taken into custody.

The mayor also told the committee that Atlanta’s cyberattack had cost the city $7.2 million so far, and that she expected the cost to rise. She said some of the cost had been reimbursed through the city’s cyber insurance policy, but did not say how much.

According to a confidential report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News last August, the attack could potentially cost the city as much as $17 million, but $11 million of that estimate includes non-emergency goods and services.

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