No rest for the weary. Just 5 days into the new year, the most populous county in New Mexico was taken down by a ransomware attack in the early morning hours of January 5, 2022.
Bernalillo County in New Mexico, which includes the city of Albuquerque among others, is 1,160 square miles and serves over 676,000 residents. With an annual operating budget of $650M, the county government employs 2,500 people.
The impact is that the county government cannot serve their citizens. Fortunately, the public safety offices (i.e., 911, sheriff, fire) are still operating.
At a time when COVID-19 cases are reaching an all-time high, when people are depending on their local government for testing, vaccinations and information, when the community depends on technology for communication, one cyber incident can leave thousands of citizens wondering what to do next.
While county resources are stretched to respond to a global pandemic at its worst, the local leaders are hit with an attack that could have been prevented.
At this time, it is unclear how the ransomware attack happened. However, this should serve as a cautionary tale for all local governments to shore up their defenses. While responding to the urgency of a health crisis, weather emergency (tornadoes, snow storm) or other natural (or man-made) disaster, responding to a preventable technology attack is something that can be avoided with planning and preparation.