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Ransomware attack hundreds of LaSalle County government computers

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LASALLE COUNTY (WEEK) -- The LaSalle County government is seeing a big interruption to its services this week.

The LaSalle County government is seeing a big interruption to its services this week.

The county is dealing with a ransomware attack on its computers discovered by the Sheriff's Office last Sunday around 3:30 a.m.

Ransomware is a type of virus which locks up all the files on a computer, as hackers demand a ransom, usually money or Bitcoin, to release them.

The county's IT Director, John Haag, said this virus is locking up about 200 computers and about 40 servers in the county government. He said the two areas not affected are the county courts and circuit clerk's office.

About a week later, county employees still do not have access to their emails.

"The first step is gonna [sic] be getting us back fully functional," said Haag.

Haag said they only have three IT employees; they are all working on bringing employees back online.

"It's a big endeavor we're going through."

Haag said they are not giving in to the hacker's demands.

"We're just not paying the ransom. We're blowing away the computers and restoring from backup. It could take months to try and decrypt one file," said Haag.

He said they use a third party company for file backups, giving them the ability to reset the computers from scratch. After existing computers are reset, new monitoring software will be installed. About 40 PC's will be replaced because of previously scheduled upgrades.

While many ransomware attacks demand a certain amount of money up-front, Haag said this hacker did not disclose that. Instead, the virus has asked the county to contact an email address for further instructions. Haag said they will contact that email address.

With Illinois' primary elections two weeks away, Haag said the county's election proceedings will not be affected.

"Election is secure and nothing's been compromised with our elections and it's proceeding as our election was proceeding prior to. We have some affected PC's in the (County Clerk's) department but it doesn't affect the overall operation with how election security works," Haag said.

The timeline for a complete fix is unknown.

While the LaSalle County Government was affected by a ransomware attack, these cyber attacks can happen to anyone, including individuals.

Haag reminded computer users to be cautious about opening links from email addresses you don't know, or from places you're not expecting.

After the computers are restored, Haag said they plan to get to the bottom of how this cyber attack happened, and work to make sure it never happens again.

When asked who was investigating the attack, Haag said he couldn't disclose that specifically. He did say the county is working with local and federal authorities on the investigation.

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