After a devastating cyberattack forced a borough in Alaska to shut down many of its computer systems, officials there turned to an unlikely savior: typewriters.
Staff in Matanuska-Susitna, a south-central borough of Alaska, began relying on typewriters after hackers locked them out of their computers and email server, according to the BBC. The perpetrators used what’s known as a ransomware attack, deploying malicious software to take control of digital systems and then demanding payment from the victims to get their data back. While the borough works to bring its systems back online, officials “reenlisted typewriters from closets” and wrote receipts and lists of library members by hand, according to Bleeping Computer, a technology website.
The borough said that beginning in mid-July, hackers seized its desktop computers, most of its servers, telephone system and email exchange. On the borough’s home page, visitors are greeted with an arresting banner: “Mat-Su Declares Disaster. Worst of its Kind Cyber Attack.”
Borough Manager John Moosey declared the cyberattack a disaster Tuesday, according to a statement by public affairs director Patty Sullivan. Moosey told members of the public at a Borough Assembly meeting that the declaration grants the borough access to its insurance, funds dedicated to emergencies and possibly the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The borough anticipates that the major disruptions caused by the cyberattack may continue for a “prolonged time.” The loss of services and productivity, the borough said, is compounded by the high cost of hiring IT specialists and the “great deal of overtime” that the borough is paying IT department staff.
Borough IT Director Eric Wyatt said the perpetrators deployed hacking tools that were the “worst of its type,” citing international cyber experts who have experience with the kind of ransomware that was used. The computer virus that infected the borough has claimed 209 previous victims, he said. “The group that we are facing that has unleashed this particular attack is a very well-organized group, and they’re using the most sophisticated tools and have done a lot of damage across the country to include us.”
The data encrypted by the hackers was turned over to the FBI, Wyatt said in a report earlier this week, in the hope that federal agents can recover the decryption keys needed to retrieve the information.