The Imperial County government website system has been down for six days because of an outside hack.
According to a document obtained by The Times, a Ryuk ransomware note appeared online after the incident. It warned that the system network had been penetrated and demanded payment in bitcoin.
“No system is safe,” the message concluded. The Times was unable to reach county officials to comment on the ransomware message, which was provided to the newspaper by a source who did not want to be identified. But on Friday, county officials confirmed that Ryuk was responsible.
“Imperial County has not and will not pay any form of ransom to any parties involved, now or in the future,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Ryan Kelley said in a statement.
Staff members are working using Gmail accounts and communicating with the public via Facebook and Twitter. The online payment system through the treasurer and tax collector’s office has been affected, as has the Imperial County Department of Social Services, according to county posts on social media.
In January, the same malware was believed to have been used in an attack that affected newspapers nationwide, including the Los Angeles Times. Typically, Ryuk infiltrates a system through a bad link or attachment.
Imperial County was notified of an incident April 13 that affected access to the county website and other systems, according to Linsey Dale, county public information officer. There have also been problems with the phone system. The county is working with a private security firm to address the situation and take precautionary steps.
“The county is operating as business as usual,” Dale said.
But Johanna Caballero, a loan officer, said there was a three-day lag in processing transactions between house buyers and sellers. The incident has affected the Imperial County clerk-recorder’s office, preventing sellers from immediately receiving payment and buyers from receiving keys to their homes. That’s especially problematic for anyone who has already moved.
“A lot of people aren’t happy in Imperial County,” Caballero said.