Huber Heights, Ohio, a community home to nearly 45,000 residents, is grappling with the fallout of a ransomware attack that has disrupted various city systems. The attack, which was discovered around 8 a.m. on a Sunday, prompted city officials to issue a warning and take immediate action.
City Manager Rick Dzik addressed the situation, emphasizing that while public safety services remain unaffected, several city divisions have been impacted. These include Zoning, Engineering, Tax, Finance, Utilities, Human Resources, and Economic Development.
James McQuiggan, Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4, commented on the challenges municipalities like Huber Heights face in the digital age. "Ransomware attacks always illustrate a challenge municipalities face as they grow more reliant on digital infrastructure and the threat landscape expands, making them prime targets for cybercriminals. Often, these small organizations can have limited budgets for cybersecurity and run on the minimum needed to support the infrastructure. This incident should also prompt a re-evaluation of user training and awareness. Frequent assessments for all users in recognizing and responding to cyber threats and public education campaigns can significantly reduce the risk of such attacks."
Dzik revealed that the Information Technology Department is actively investigating the scope and severity of the incident, collaborating with third-party experts, and working closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. He assured residents that any individuals whose data is affected by the breach will be promptly notified.
As a result of the attack, city services are expected to remain offline for at least a week. While phone lines are operational, residents are encouraged to check the city's website for updates on restored services.
McQuiggan continued, emphasizing the importance of proactive measures: "It's also essential to review and update incident response plans. This includes technical responses and communication strategies to keep residents informed and manage public perception effectively. Organizations can benefit significantly from proactive versus reactive positions regarding their cybersecurity programs. Investing in robust, predictive cybersecurity measures rather than solely focusing on post-incident response can help reduce expected downtimes and loss of productivity."
In response to inquiries from concerned citizens about utility payments, the city clarified that the online payment portal remains inaccessible. Residents will need to make payments in person, using cash or checks. The city has taken steps to alleviate the situation by suspending late penalties for bills and disconnections through the end of the month.
This unfortunate incident in Huber Heights is not isolated, as Ohio has experienced a series of ransomware attacks in recent times. City Manager Rick Dzik was previously associated with Mount Vernon, Ohio, which faced its own ransomware attack in December, causing disruptions across various offices.
Other cities in Ohio, such as Circleville, also fell victim to ransomware attacks earlier this year. In Circleville, the municipal court was the target of the attack.
Ransomware incidents have become a growing concern for local governments across the United States. Dallas County, Texas, recently faced a situation where a ransomware gang leaked stolen data, leading to a review of compromised information and disruptions in services across various cities, including Oakland and others. As these attacks persist, local governments are taking proactive measures to enhance cybersecurity and mitigate the impact of such incidents on their communities.