City Of Okemah Expects To Get Information Back Monday After Cyber Hack

Friday, June 12th 2020, 6:27 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

TULSA, Okla. -

The City of Okemah said it expects to get all of its data back Monday after the city's computers were hacked and held for ransom this week.

The criminals demanded the city pay thousands to get its information back.

University of Tulsa Tandy Associate Professor of Cyber Security Tyler Moore said in most ransomware cases, cities decide to pay the hackers to get the data back.

The City of Okemah could not confirm Friday whether it paid the hackers in this case.

Okemah city workers used pen and paper this week to do business, after City Manager Dustin Danker said the city's computers were hacked and held for ransom.

"We’ve been kicked back to the 80s,” Danker said.

Danker said there is no reason to believe personal information, like credit card numbers, are in jeopardy for the town of about 3,000 people. Moore also said people’s information should not be at risk.

"Most likely, you're OK because the criminals are less interested in knowing about personal information of people in Okemah as they are extracting the ransom from the City of Okemah,” Moore said.

Moore said ransomware is a common attack where cyber criminals compromise a computer server, then scramble the data and lock it under an encryption key. Then, he said, the criminals demand ransom, and won't unscramble until they're paid.

"It started in much bigger cities, so last year it was Atlanta and Baltimore,” Moore said.

Over the years, he says criminals moved on to smaller towns.

"A ransomware attack is difficult to handle for any city or town, but it's especially hard on a small town where the IT person may be a team of one,” Moore said.

The best defense for a city, Moore said, is to keep software updated and always have a backup system in place.

In this case, the city manager said the hackers took their backup system, too.

"They're going to continue to do it so long as they can keep hacking computers and people are willing to pay, and I don't see that changing,” Moore said.

Danker said the police department, fire department and emergency management also work in the same building as City Hall workers, but thankfully were not impacted by this cyber-attack.