Augusta claims strides in restoring services after cyberattack
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Nearly two weeks into a city computer system outage after a cyberattack, the Augusta Commission held a special meeting behind closed doors Friday, then later offered an update on the situation that’s brought many city operations to a near standstill.
Starting around 11 a.m. Friday, a quorum of six members gathered at the Augusta Richmond County Municipal Building, then immediately went into a closed-door executive session.
The meeting included Mayor Garnett Johnson as well as Commissioners Wayne Guilfoyle, Jordan Johnson, Alvin Mason, Bobby Williams, and Tony Lewis. Commissioner Sean Frantom showed up late.
EARLIER COVERAGE FROM NEWS 12:
- A look at Augusta’s IT department amid cyber-attack
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- City struggles with cyberattack as hackers brag about breach
- Mayor denies $50M ransom demand amid city computer outage
- ‘Unauthorized access’ blamed for cyber-crisis that’s crippled city computers
The session ended around 1 p.m., and the mayor said there would be no verbal statements, but the city did issue a written statement after 5 p.m.
The statement again attributed the outage to an “unauthorized actor” gaining access to certain computer systems.
It also denied the city is in contact with a hacker group that says it brought down the system in a ransom attack. The group posted a trove of city data as evidence it had broken into the system.
The city’s statement included these updates on services:
- Augusta 311 is receiving service requests and forwarding them to the appropriate department.
- Augusta Transit is operating as normal.
- Augusta Utilities is proceeding with billing and processing payments as normal.
- Environmental Services is picking up trash as scheduled.
- The Finance Department is taking care of payroll and vendor check processing.
- Planning and Development is handling requests in person at all locations only.
- All public safety “essential functions” are operational.
- The Tax Commissioner’s Office is temporarily not processing property taxes. For now, the office is only handling motor vehicle transactions. Residents can make motor vehicle transactions in person or using the kiosks at the south Augusta tag office, 3463-A Peach Orchard Road, and in the Kroger store at 2801 Washington Road. Residents can email their questions regarding property taxes and motor vehicle transactions at tagrequestsPaugustaga.gov.
“Again, a thorough investigation is ongoing to determine the extent to which any sensitive personal information may have been impacted by this incident,” said the statement, adding that the city “remains committed to taking all appropriate actions to notify any impacted individuals identified, once a determination is made.”
The judicial system is one of those that’s struggled since the cyberattack.
Donna Marain a court watcher in Richmond County who works to track court data, says cases could pile up. In addition to the cyberattack, there was already a backlog, thanks to the pandemic and the split of Columbia County into a separate judicial circuit.
“The backlog is only growing,” she said. “One of the components that they’re missing since the hacking is criminal history. The judges will ask these defendants if they’ve had this charge before, and they’re reliant on the person standing in front of them to say yes or no.”
She says we could feel a bigger impact later down the road.
“They’re just facing crisis after crisis” she said, “and this community is not stepping up to say this should not be operating this way.”
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