Hackers take control of Madison County government servers, demand ransom

File image

File image

ANDERSON, IND. – Authorities in Madison County are working frantically to find their important files and documents after hackers broke into the system and stole critical information. Now, the cyber criminals are demanding a large sum of money from the county or threaten to never return the files.

“They are calling this a very significant event and that means whoever is behind it absolutely knows what they are doing and it is going to be extremely difficult for us to gain access of our servers on our own,” said Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger.

Madison County police, firefighters, and officials access to their county server and are logging all calls for service by hand.

“We cannot query old information to bring up prior reports or prior court records. If we want to bring somebody’s record up for something in the future, let’s say for somebody that has been arrested or somebody who is even in jail then we cannot look up information that would help us at a hearing. On the sheriff’s office side, we cannot book people into jail using the computers. We are using pencil and paper like the old days,” said Sheriff Mellinger.

The hackers used a computer virus to block access to the files until someone pays a large sum of money to get them back.

“There are so many unknowns here because even the investigators that had a lot of experience in this area are telling us they have not dealt with this specific virus before,” said Sheriff Mellinger.

Although Anderson Police, the Madison County Jail, and the county court systems are locked out of accessing important documents officials do not believe that people’s personal or payment information is at risk. Also, the voting records and ballots are on a separate system and at this time were reportedly not affected by the hack. The Madison County 911 system is also running.

“I don’t believe that public safety is at risk because of this particular incident. If this were to go on very long or for some reason we were not able to ultimately gain access of out files then I would be more worried,” said Sheriff Mellinger.

The Indiana State Police Cybercrimes Unit is the head of the investigation and ISP officers do not negotiate with hackers. The officers will work to track down who is responsible for the attack.

“In a perfect world, we will bust through this thing today and gain access back and somehow find the bad guys,” said Sheriff Mellinger.

Madison County does have ransomware insurance. The county reports that they currently have leads on the hackers but are not releasing more information at this time.

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