Cyber Risk

Cyber attack delays Atlanta mayor's first budget pitch

FILE PHOTO: A view of Atlanta's City Hall, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. March 31, 2018. REUTERS/Laila Kearney/File Photo

(Reuters) - Atlanta’s 2019 budget process has been delayed by a March cyber attack that scrambled a swath of government data, temporarily closing courts, halting bill payments and slowing other key services in the most devastating “ransomware” assault on a major U.S. city, a city spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who took office in January, was due to make her first budget pitch more than a week ago. Under city charter, Atlanta’s mayor is supposed to propose a budget no later than the first city council meeting in May, ahead of the fiscal year beginning on July 1.

This year, the proposal was delayed as the cyber incident compromised Atlanta’s budget planning system for weeks, a city spokesperson said in an email. “Once systems were restored and validated, work commenced to prepare the proposed budget.”

It was unclear exactly when the document would be presented to the city council, which is tasked with amending the budget over a series of meetings before it can be signed into law.

Atlanta’s computer systems, including its civil courts, are still affected by the ransomware cyber extortion attack discovered by city employees on March 22.

Cyber criminals infected city networks using the computer virus known as SamSam, which scrambles and locks up information. Hackers demanded the city pay six bitcoins, which amounted to $51,000 at the time of the attack, to release the data.

Atlanta declined to pay.

The city has already approved more than $5 million in emergency cyber security contracts since the discovery of the attack, according to a list of emergency procurements posted on the city’s website.

The amounts included $650,000 for contracting with cyber security firm SecureWorks Corp SCWX.O and more than $1.3 million for a range of security-related services from Microsoft Corp MSFT.O.

Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Richard Chang