Garfield County was forced to pay a ransom to gain access to their own data after a massive ransomware attack hit their computer systems. According to FOX 13, county officials weren’t able to access their computers for weeks.
“All of our data had been taken,” Garfield County Attorney Barry Huntington told FOX 13.
The attack occurred after someone clicked on a phishing email earlier in the year that launched the ransomware attack. The computer virus stole data from a number of county offices and then locked it away.
Huntington said files from the Assessor’s Office and the Recorder’s Office had been taken and no one knew how or why.
“Eventually we received an email stating that some terrorists had taken our information and if we wanted it back, we had to pay them,” he said.
After the state severed access to its systems, the FBI became involved.
“We were told to leave our computers off while the FBI and the state looked into it,” Huntington said. “We tried to do the best we could with handwritten files and things like that. Computer-wise, we were shut down.”
Garfield County eventually paid the perpetrator the ransom in Bitcoin in order to regain access to their files, phones and systems. While the FBI would not comment about the Garfield County attack, the agency said the county was not alone in being a victim of this type of hijackings.
“It really happens to everyone,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jeffrey Collins said in an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday. “An individual person at home, small businesses, corporations, everyone can be affected by this.”
The FBI does not encourage paying the ransom in these type of situations, but acknowledges some may feel they have no other options.
In order to protect yourself, Collins said people need to double-check their emails, even if they look like they come from somewhere safe.
“Even if it looks like somebody you trust, you should be suspicious of it. Especially if it has an attachment or a link,” he said. “Don’t automatically click that or assume it’s safe.”
Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune and FOX 13 are content-sharing partners.