20:43 GMT +323 April 2018
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    US Focus on Russia, ‘External Threats’ Leaves Cybersystems Vulnerable

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    As officials in Atlanta, Georgia, continue to grapple with a hack that knocked out most of the city’s online services, both the city of Baltimore, Maryland, and a Boeing facility in Charleston, South Carolina, have also been hit with malware attacks.

    Anoa Changa, co-managing editor of Progressive Army and host of "The Way with Anoa" podcast, lives in Atlanta and spoke to Radio Sputnik's By Any Means Necessary, telling the show the attack "really says a lot in terms of cybersecurity and how vulnerable our systems are."

    "You know there's been so much focus — again, not to harp on and sound like a broken record — but there's so much focus on external threats, like, from other countries — Russia primarily — we haven't looked at the vulnerabilities that exist in the system and what does it take, and mean, to actually address them," Changa told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon.

    The hacking of Atlanta's systems on March 22 is groundbreaking in terms of its scale and implications: The New York Times called it "one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks" ever launched against a US city. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms urged residents who have used the city's network to pay fines or bills to keep close tabs on their finances and to report suspicious activity, as the attack affected the city's court website, which people can use to pay fines and tickets. That system is partially working again, albeit without the portal used to access case information. 

    The attack, which used SamSam ransomware, came with the demand for $51,000 in bitcoins, Ars Technica reported.

    "The city's trying to decide whether they're going to respond to it or not. I'm sure Keisha has it on lock," Changa said.

    Researchers have noticed an increased number of such attacks since a string of cyber attacks on hospitals last year, Security Affairs noted.

    One week after the attack on Atlanta, Baltimore's 911 emergency system was also hit by ransomware, although it isn't clear whether the malware is of the SamSam variety. Ars Technica reports that the city's computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system was attacked within a four-hour window during which a technician was swapping out a firewall.

    Meanwhile, a Boeing facility in Charleston has reported being hit by a variant of the WannaCry virus that took over computer systems worldwide in May 2017. The company "detected a limited intrusion of malware that affected a small number of systems," according to a statement.

    Software problems have also been reported in Denver, Colorado, although there is no indication that they are related to a hack as of yet, according to 9News.

    Changa says these attacks demand real action in the cyber world. "The fact that a large municipality is basically shut down because of being locked out of computers is a real issue. It's a real problem and it's frustrating because we have millions of dollars to build new stadiums but can't get our computers straight." 

    She noted that the hacking of Atlanta's systems acutely affected some of the city's most vulnerable residents. "It was days of living in the city of Atlanta before I even knew there was an issue. There are so many things I utilize that don't necessarily involve the city's website," Changa said. "Cases in court had to be postponed and delayed, so think about people who may have had to take time off ahead of time, you know scheduled leave in advance. Just a sheer inconvenience, to people who are trying to pay their water bill."

    "Even though they don't think any user information has been lost or was stolen, they're still telling people to be careful. And we've seen so many data breaches — even though this isn't necessarily a data breach — we've still seen so many different types of intrusions over the last five years that government… should be doing more to protect our systems and people's information," Changa said.

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    Tags:
    WannaCry, ransomware, cyber, Hack, Baltimore, Denver, Charleston, Atlanta
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