Atlanta ransomware attack still causing chaos

Computers were turned back on Tuesday in Atlanta, but that doesn't mean it's back to business as usual.

Five days after a "ransomware" attack crippled the city's computer network, officials are trying to recover from the hack that blocked access to electronic records, leaving city jails and municipal courts running manually with paper and pens. Many city employees remain without access to email or the internet.

Atlanta's courts also said they are are unable to process ticket payments because of the breach, whether online or in person. Residents facing court cases for some low-level offenses received a reprieve of sorts due to the attack. 

The use of ransomware, which lets hackers seize control of computers belonging to individuals, businesses and local governments, has been on the rise in recent years. In 2017, U.S. officials blamed North Korea for the massive "WannaCry" ransomware attack on hospitals, financial firms and other companies. 

More than 1,200 ransomware incidents were detected every day last year, according to a new report from security software firm Symantec. 

Investigators including the Federal Bureau of Investigation are working to figure out the identity of the culprits, who demanded the equivalent of about $51,000 in bitcoin to unlock the shuttered systems. 

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms declined to indicate if city officials are considering paying the ransom, saying in a televised news conference on Monday that she is consulting with the FBI and other federal agencies.

"We are dealing with a hostage situation," Bottoms said in declining to specify when the city expects to be fully operational again. 

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done with our digital infrastructure in the city of Atlanta, and we know that year after year that it's something that we have to focus on, and certainly this has sped things up," Bottoms said.

"For some of our younger employees, it will be an exercise in good penmanship," she quipped in a light-hearted moment talking about the situation that has city employees performing tasks manually instead of electronically.

On Tuesday, the city advised employees to turn on computers and printers for the first time since the attack, while warning in a statement that some systems may still be down. 

Secureworks, an Atlanta security firm hired by the city to help it resolve its online issues, declined in an email to comment the incident.

The impact of the cyberattack is still affecting Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which shut down its WiFi system as a precaution. A notice on the website of the world's busiest airport said internet difficulties meant security wait times and flight information were unavailable, and advised travelers to check with individual airlines. 

Beyond Atlanta, a suburban town 30 miles away is advising residents to monitor their bank accounts and credit report because a hacker may have gained access to a city server in Loganville, Georgia. The possible hacking occurred on March 15, and personal and financial information including Social Security numbers and banking information may have been compromised, the city announced Monday on Facebook.