Augusta hires legal firm to help cope with data breach

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 2:10 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - There’s a new development in the third week after a cyberattack brought many city of Augusta computer systems to a crawl: The city has retained a special cybersecurity legal firm.

The firm can help the city with any ramifications from the cyberattack.

The legal firm, Mullen Coughlin, could deal with legal troubles from sensitive data – such as Social Security numbers and bank accounts – made public by the breach.

Other than the firm, the city has only previously named the FBI as a third party involved in the case.


City officials have declined to call the breach a ransomware attack and say no ransom amount has been communicated to them – even though the BlackByte hacker group posted an online demand of up to $400,000 along with a sampling of the allegedly stolen data.

Mullen Coughlin LLC describes itself on its website as “a law firm uniquely dedicated exclusively to representing organizations facing data privacy events, information security incidents, and the need to address these risks before a crisis hits.”

The firm notes on its website that owners of breached systems are legally and sometimes contractually required to quickly take certain steps to investigate and respond.

The firm says its services in these cases include directing the investigation into the incident – often along with law enforcement agencies – and determining who needs to be notified and how.

So far, some local residents feel like they’ve been left in the dark, with city officials offering updates mostly through prepared statements.

“I’m surprised that: for some reason, it hasn’t seemed like the city is forthcoming in terms of exactly what’s happening,” said Bob Nestor, a south Augusta resident.

The data posted so far by BlackByte could be a real problem, according to cybersecurity expert John Shier with Sophos.

“There are files there, they appear to be government-type files where they include people’s addresses and Social Security numbers, and all sorts of other things that would be considered private information,” said Shier.