Most residents of Tulsa are being prevented from paying their water bills after the city shut down its computer network as a security measure following an attempted ransomware attack, a city official said Friday.
The attempted breach was stopped before any personal data was accessed, city spokesman Carson Colvin said. Tulsa detected malware in its network May 6 and immediately started shutting it down to prevent hackers from accessing anything sensitive.
“It didn’t get far enough into the system to get personal data,” Colvin said.
The primary effect of the shutdown — which could last from several more days to about a month — is payment for city water services, either online or in person, because the city cannot process credit or debit cards with computers inoperable.
Residents will have five days after online payments are again possible to pay their bills without penalty, Colvin said.
The city said Thursday that police and fire responses continue, but issues such as uploading police body cameras are slowed because of the computer shutdown.
Mayor G.T. Bynum on Thursday said the hackers told the city to pay a ransom or else it would publicize that it had broken into the network, but Bynum said Tulsa didn’t pay and instead announced the breach on its own.
Bynum said the hackers’ identity is known, but he did not reveal who they are.
Federal investigators are assisting the city, Bynum said.
Tulsa is the 33rd local government in the U.S. to be hit with a ransomware attack this year, according to a tally kept by ransomware expert Brett Callow, a threat analyst at the security firm Emsisoft.
Earlier this month a ransomware attack by a criminal gang that calls itself DarkSide forced the shutdown of a vital U.S. pipeline that led to gas shortages. Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline announced last week it had begun the process of restarting the pipeline’s normal operations, delivering fuel to states from Texas to New Jersey.