While yet another local government being shut down by a ransomware attack is old news these days, it still can point to a few valuable things.
This time it is Davidson County, NC, home of Greensboro.
At 2:00 in the morning the county’s CIO was woken up – there was something strange going on with the 911 system.
What they figured out what that ransomware had compromised 70 servers and an unknown number of desktops and laptops.
Oh, yeah, and the phones weren’t working, which is sort of a problem for the 911 dispatchers.
The county manager said it could take weeks or months to fully resolve. He also said that this kind of attack is common in Europe. It is, but it is equally common in the U.S. Just recently neighboring county Mecklenburg had the same problem.
One bit of good news is that they have cyber insurance. That likely will help them pay for some of the costs. At the time of the first article, they had not decided if they were going to pay the ransom.
By Monday the county said that 911 was working as was the tax collector. You can see why both of these are important to the county.
They continue to work on the restoration, but did not give a time when things would be back to normal – just soon.
What what are the takeaways here?
- Have a disaster recovery plan – it sounds like they did have one of these.
- Have a business continuity plan – how do we the doors open or answering the phone. And, if you are a web based business and your web site is down, now what?
- Having cyber insurance will help pay for all this.
- Make sure you have backups. Make sure it covers ALL of your data and systems.
- Figure out how long it will take to restore those backups. For nearby Mecklenburg, it was a couple of months. Is that OK? If not, what is plan B?
- How are you going to communicate about it.
- MUTUAL AID – this one is easier for non-profits and the public sector, still it is worth considering. Davidson County received offers of assistance from the nearby City of Lexington and from Rowan County as well as the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. And they are talking with Mecklenburg County – that went through the same ordeal recently. When I was in college in upstate New York (this was in the dark ages before the Internet), the volunteer fire departments up and down the Finger Lakes would invoke that mutual aid using fog horns that traveled across the lakes for miles. A particular burst meant that this fire department or that needed help. It was a life saver, literally. Maybe it is with a customer or a business partner or an investor. You may not need the aid, but having it available could make a huge difference.
Ultimately, having a plan and testing that plan is hugely important. Don’t hope it won’t happen to you. That might be the case, but then again, it might not be the case. Will you be ready if it happens to you?