With ransomware on the rise, San Leandro employees are not trained to ID attempts to infect their computers

A vast majority of attempts by cyber-criminals to infect city computer systems come via various forms of phising. Typically emails that look genuine to an untrained eye, but in fact, contain malware.

San Leandro beatSan Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter said she has been phised before on her city email account. She later sent the suspicious message to the IT Department, she said.

But San Leandro city employees are not trained to spot attempts by digital thieves to infect its computer systems with ransomware, San Leandro Information Technology Director Tony Batalla, told the City Council on Oct. 7.

The disclosure comes at a time when a growing number of cities have been attacked by thieves who lock the city’s digital infrastructure, bringing the everyday business of government to a standstill, only to release the data when paid, what is in effect, a ransom.

Baltimore was attacked, but did not pay a ransom. Instead, it spent $18 million to restore its computer systems. A similar attacked occurred in Atlanta last year. It’s an expenditure most cities loath to spend, especially smaller-sized municipalities like San Leandro.

Overall, Batalla said he has taken notice of the rising number of ransomware incidents around the country and has responded by moving 60 percent of San Leandro’s technology system to the cloud, where they are better protected from cyber-criminals, he said. Next generation firewalls have also been erected.

But overall, is Batalla comfortable with San Leandro’s current ability to thwart a cyber-attack, Councilmember Pete Ballew asked.

“I would say my personal opinion and in my official capacity, I feel like we’ve done pretty good,” Batalla said. “I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress. That said. I don’t think I’ve ever been more paranoid about waking up tomorrow morning, not knowing what to expect.”