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Cyberattack disrupts Lowell city government, shuts down computers

Cyberattack disrupts Lowell city government, shuts down computers
Cyberattack disrupts Lowell city government, shuts down computers 02:07

LOWELL - The city of Lowell is alerting residents to a cyberattack that impacted the municipality's computer systems starting early on Monday.

"We realized Monday morning around 3 to 5 a.m. that there was a breach," said City Manager Tom Golden.

Golden says that phones, emails and other city systems are down as a result.

"The City of Lowell's Management Information Systems Department (MIS) became aware of a network disruption impacting a variety of systems. MIS determined the best course of action was to segment and isolate systems in order to troubleshoot them further. Servers, networks, phones, and other systems throughout the City became inaccessible as MIS focused on protecting the City's tech and data assets," said a statement on the city's Twitter page.

Golden says 911 and other emergency numbers were not impacted and there is no reason to believe there has been a data breach. The incident is not being described as a ransomware attack.

"The other professionals in law enforcement have looked at this, and we're all comfortable, but it's going to take us a little bit of time," Golden said.

Lowell's attack could have been worse, but it is another warning to local municipalities. Last year, the FBI put out an alert cautioning local governments about the threat of ransomware attacks.

Boston College professor and cybersecurity expert Kevin Powers says it's not a matter of if but when local governments will be attacked by cybercriminals.

"It's really about the incident response plan, that muscle memory and training for the worst, so that way, you can get through it and really stop the bad actors the best you can," Powers said.

When it happens, attacks can be costly, time consuming and difficult to investigate.

"IBM does a yearly report, and I think the average cost for a data breach is somewhere between $3 (million) to $4 million," Powers said.

Lowell officials have alerted law enforcement to the attack, and Golden says it could be days before the city's system is fully up and running.

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