Huge electricity supplier hit by ransomware attack

Residents in Johannesburg, South Africa were left without power last week as one of the city’s major energy suppliers was hit by a ransomware attack.

City Power say all of the IT systems have been shut down since the attack last Thursday. The company’s website is currently offline leaving customers to take to social media to report problems.

One Twitter user says, “#citypower, please advise we just had a power outage now in Bloubosrand, Randburg. We were not warned about this.”

With another user commenting, “Cyber Security is at play on the Joburg #citypower attack”.

As well as causing power outages, the attack has also affected pre-paid electricity top-ups and won’t allow the company to deal with contained black-outs either.

Identifying the type of attack

On Friday afternoon, however, the company detailed that their cybersecurity team had managed to identify the type of ransomware that had caused the outbreak.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the firm, Isaac Mangena, said, “The virus samples have been taken to the external labs for testing”

Mangena continued to say that thanks to back up files, IT technicians have managed to reconstruct data and systems using back up files. However, due to the email system being hit the hardest, they will take a while to restore.

The spokesperson commented, “We are currently busy in a process of restoring email, SharePoint and website backups, which will ensure customers are able to access the website.” Adding, “Part of the work going forward will be to beef up our cyber monitoring and defence systems to ensure we avoid such attacks.”

A problem getting worse

Despite the virus being discovered, Ilia Kolochenko, founder and CEO of web security company ImmuniWeb spoke to Software Testing News has spoken about how easy it can be for hackers to get away with this sort of criminal activity. He says: “Crypto currencies make such crimes technically uninvestigatable in most cases, letting the wrongdoers enjoy impunity. Law enforcement agencies are already overburdened with an increasingly growing pipeline of sophisticated investigations, often aggravated by continuous lack of financing and unfriendly colleagues from foreign jurisdictions.”

Kolochenko also discusses how this type of cyber-attack will become more commonplace as cities develop and hackers advance their skills. He says “We should expect further proliferation of similar incidents. Cities, and especially their infrastructure sites, are usually a low-hanging fruit for unscrupulous cyber gangs. These victims will almost inevitably pay the ransom as all other avenues are either unreliable or too expensive.”

He continues, “Unless governments develop, finance and duly enforce security regulations purported to safeguard cities and municipalities, we will soon dive into a darkness, facing grave accidents involving airports and other objects of critical infrastructure.”



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