Janesville computer systems hit by virus, likely ‘ransomware’

Janesville computer systems hit by virus, likely ‘ransomware’

Janesville officials said they’re still working to recover after a computer virus attacked their network last week.

Information Technology Manager Gordy LaChance said it was caused by multiple employees opening compromised emails that immediately started gathering and reorganizing files in their system. Both emails looked like they were from businesses that the city may have been dealing with. One purported to be an invoice, the other an incorrect credit card charge.

One of those emails was opened by City Clerk/Treasurer Dave Godek, who said he knew immediately something was wrong when the attachment that was supposed to be a screen shot of a utility charge was instead “a page of gobbledegook.” Godek was working for most of Monday with pen and paper while his computer was reviewed for issues.

LaChance said Godek notified the IT department, who manually disconnected networks and took down possibly infected computers. He said the city’s website was down for most of Thursday afternoon, and the primary network connecting city systems was disabled. He does not believe any sensitive information was accessed during the attack.

While it’s unclear what the hackers were after, LaChance said his best guess would be that if the virus was allowed to complete what it was sent to do, it would have functioned as “ransomware.” That type of virus encrypts files and accounts and sends a message to users asking for money in return for unlocking the computer system. Ransomware has hit a number of local governments over the last year.

LaChance said his employees worked through the weekend restoring access, and hope to have other computers and systems online again by the end of the week.