City of Ridge operations slowly recovering after malware attack; city will work with customers on utility bills
The city of Oak Ridge government will gradually return to regular operations in the coming weeks after a malware attack on the city offices' computer network.
The city's computer systems were attacked several weeks ago by what was described in a city news release as "a sophisticated group of criminals." Law enforcement is investigating, as reported earlier. The attack involved the insertion of malicious programs, often called “malware” or “computer viruses,” into the city’s computer network.
The attack affected computers in the city government' offices. It was detected on March 20. Upon discovery of the attack, the city shut down the entire computer network to minimize the damage. All business practices were brought to a standstill, including web services and emails the community uses for routine service requests. Phones were not affected, although voicemail is currently not available.
“Despite the attack, the services our citizens rely on every day, from police and eire emergency services to clean water and electricity, were not interrupted,” Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said in a news release issued Friday afternoon.
As reported earlier by The Oak Ridger, a temporary webpage at the city’s website, OakRidgeTN.gov, has been created and lists the phone numbers for all city services and departments.
Specialists were brought in to help with the city government's response and recovery efforts. They have worked with city staff, to clean and restore systems.
No evidence credit card information compromised
At this time, there is no evidence that any credit card information or taxpayer or utility customer information was compromised.
“Any breach of data will be disclosed to the affected parties, and we will work with them to limit any damage done,” Deputy City Manager Jack Suggs stated in the news release. “No payments have been made to these criminals and the city is working closely with law enforcement to bring those responsible for this attack to justice.”
Fully restoring normal operations will be a slow process. Each of the hundreds of computers the city uses every day is being thoroughly evaluated, cleaned, repaired or replaced before being returned to service. This process can take up to several hours per computer. Assistance provided by several different groups has been of invaluable assistance, but complete restoration will still take several weeks.
The city is implementing additional security measures and protocols as it rebuilds its systems. In the meantime, customers are asked to be patient as services such as email and online permitting are restored slowly over the next few weeks.
Utility bills; city will work with customers
Utility bills were one of the areas hit by the attack.
“We are unable to send utility bills to customers right now and next month many will end up receiving a bill which includes two months of service as we catch up,” Suggs said “We know this will disrupt our customers’ budgets and we will work with our customers to limit the burden, waiving fees and penalties and offering to spread the utility payments out over several months if needed.”
If a resident would like to make a payment toward their bill, the Utility Business Office (UBO) is open and accepting cash and check payments. Customers can also leave check payments in the drop box outside the Utility Business Office (UBO) at 200 S. Tulane Ave. Oak Ridge. The UBO can be reached at (865) 425-3400.
Residents are encouraged to reach out to the city via its website, OakRidgeTN.gov. The site also includes city news, service updates and meeting information. If a resident needs information that isn’t on the page, they can chat with the city at the bottom right corner of the page by clicking ‘Let’s Chat!’.
City officials pointed out that the city is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @CityofOakRidge. Residents can find the city on the Nextdoor app and anyone can subscribe to the city's e-newsletter the phone numbers to all City services and departments. Residents are encouraged to reach out to the City here and on City social media channels.
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