East Greenwich town computers fall victim to ‘ransomware’ attack

West Bay

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — A cyber attack has knocked out some parts of the town computer network in East Greenwich, according to Town Manager Andrew Nota.

It happened at the end of the workday Thursday.

Nota told Eyewitness News the hackers appeared to be employing what’s known as “ransomware,” making a demand of the town and essentially holding their data hostage.

Nota said the town’s IT department immediately severed all outside network contact in order to prevent further exposure to the hackers. He said they did not read the full demand and did not know precisely what the hackers were seeking.

East Greenwich is not alone; municipal government networks across the region and the country have recently fallen prey to hackers and ransomware attacks. In July, hackers demanded more than $5 million from the City of New Bedford.

Nota said his town is still assessing the loss of data and other potential impacts, but believes the town’s quick actions limited the extent of the damage.

“If a municipality or business has in place the necessary up-to-date protections, you can establish an environment where you can greatly limit your loss and not have to consider engaging in a ransom-based negotiation,” Nota said in an email. “This environment requires an annual commitment to maintain pace with the technology and those seeking to circumvent it.  In my opinion the potential cost from a serious breach far outweighs any preventative investment.”

The town has been in touch with a technical support team and is coordinating with its insurer since the incident was discovered. They’ve also alerted the cyber units of the Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island National Guard.

Nota expects most of the town systems to be running normally by Monday, with more coming online over the next few days.

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