Ransomware attack on local government puts voter information in hands of cybercriminals

A ransomware on a metro Atlanta government that has put some voter information in the hands of cybercriminals. Hall County was the victim of a cyberattack earlier this month. Now with the election just a few days away, it appears the attackers are playing dirty.

The ransomware attack hit critical systems within the Hall County government networks. Phones and a number of operations were affected. This week during the last week of early voting, the cybercriminals publicly released election information by posting it on their website.

Cybersecurity expert Brendan Saltaformaggio with Georgia Tech said it's typical for criminals to try to force their victims to pay.

"It's almost a way of ratcheting up the pressure on the victims to get them to pay, by going through the files and finding the most sensitive thing you can and posting it on the web as a blackmail almost to try to get the victim to pay the ransom," said Saltaformaggio.

Saltaformaggio said it's never a good idea to pay the ransom.

"You don't want to pay for these ransomware attacks because you're literally negotiating with terrorists.  There's no guarantee you're going to get your data back," said Saltaformaggio.

Hall County released a statement Friday stating while they continue to work to restore services in the wake of the ransomware attack, they point out that "the elections process has not been compromised in any way, and a voter's ability to safely and securely vote is still in place."

Alex Medina didn't seem concerned as he cast his ballot Friday evening.

"I'm not worried. I'm not going to let these cyberattackers stop me from doing what I want to do, and that is to come here and vote," said Medina.

As for details about how much ransom the hackers want, the county has not said. Officials said for security purposes, specifics related to the ransomware attack are not being released.