DETROIT LAKES, Minn - Becker County is under a cyber attack that has taken down its website, disabled its printers and is now slowly corrupting its entire IT network, according to Becker County Administrator Jack Ingstad.
"Apparently we got the ransom request from whoever's doing it to pay them off," he said. No dollar amount has been demanded yet, and the county likely won't have to pay to save its files because it has secure, uncontaminated backup data saved from the night before, he said.
"If people are trying to reach us, that's why we're not responding," he said. "I told my board members not to even accept anything (digital) from the county, since there's a chance it's corrupted (and could contaminate their personal systems)."
The cyber attack is similar to what thousands of businesses across the country have experienced, Ingstad said, with important files encrypted and unusable unless a ransom, often about $500, is paid to the cyber attacker via hard-to-trace digital currency like BitCoin.
Ransomware attacks are typically carried out using a malicious email attachment that is disguised as a legitimate file that the user is tricked into downloading or opening. But that's not always the case. The recent "WannaCry worm" traveled automatically between computers without user interaction.
The attack on Becker County is "pretty extensive and pretty dramatic," Ingstad said. "I tell people that until they hear from our IT people, to be cautious-we have not identified where it came from right now."
Adding insult to injury, the cyber attack is also spewing out obscene insults to county staff, Ingstad said. If anyone gets such an email, they shouldn't take it personally, he said. Until the situation is resolved, digital communications with the county should be avoided or undertaken with caution.