Tuesday, February 4, 2020

City website returns; officials say cyberliability insurance should offset costs of outage, recovery

This post is updated with a statement from the city.

By Miles Maguire
Oshkosh officials are hoping a relatively new cyberliability insurance policy will help them deal with the costs of the malware attack that knocked city computers offline in late January.

“I didn’t think we’d ever have to use it. But we are going to have to use it,” said Assistant City Manager John Fitzpatrick. He said it will take a while for the city to total up the costs of the cyberattack, but “it’s going to be very big, I’m sure.”

The main city website and the Oshkosh Police Department website were back online Tuesday. Even though the websites are back online, some of their functions may not be available right away, Fitzpatrick said.

The cyberattack hit Jan. 28. A Facebook post from the city last week provided an outline of the situation, saying that officials were investigating the cause as well as working to rebuild the computer network and recover data. State and federal law enforcement agencies have also been involved in the investigation

"Information stored in databases, such as payroll and billing information, has not been compromised," the city said on Facebook. "No personal credit card information is stored in city systems."

City services were continuing to operate, including 911, garbage pickup and the bus system. Boards and commissions were also continuing to meet. “It’s business as usual,” Fitzpatrick said.

As of Monday financial data had been restored, and city employees were able to use email through mobile devices. Additional services were expected to be fixed during the coming days.

“It’s a matter of, ‘Please be patient,’” said Mayor Lori Palmeri. “We’re confident that we’re resilient in having the backup,” she said. “However it does take time to make sure everything is clean” as systems are brought back online. 

City officials say they are working through how to deal with disruptions caused by the outage, such as delays in automated bill payments or the inability to obtain overnight parking permits over the internet.

The city issued this statement Wednesday afternoon:

Following the discovery of a ransomware attack last Tuesday, January 28, the City of Oshkosh continues to recover.  All City department websites have been restored and are operational.  For those who are enrolled in monthly auto-withdrawal for utility bills, the withdrawals scheduled for January 30, 2020 and February 6, 2020 did not take place due to the network outage. These withdrawals will take place on February 13, along with the previously scheduled February 13th withdrawal. No late fees will be incurred for the payments which were delayed.  Customers are now able to pay bills on the City website. Please be aware the balances on the City website for utility bills and tax payments may not be current. Finance staff is working to update and record payments received during the computer outage. City staff are working as quickly as possible to recover and post the financial transactions that were manually received during the outage.  The City still encourages residents to mail payments to City Hall at P.O. Box 1128, Oshkosh, WI 54903.  All other City services continue to be operational.  The City thanks the public for their continued patience.

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