Six days after a ransomware cyberattack, Atlanta officials are filling out forms by hand

Atlanta (CNN)Residents can’t pay their water bill or their parking tickets. Police and other employees are having to write out their reports by hand. And court proceedings for people who are not in police custody are canceled until computer systems are functioning properly again.

More than six days after a ransomware attack shut down the city of Atlanta’s online systems, officials here are still struggling to keep the government running without many of their digital processes and services.
The city said on Twitter that all court dates set for Wednesday will be rescheduled and all applications for jobs with the city are suspended until further notice.
    On Tuesday officials told city employees to turn their computers and printers back on for the first time, part of an ongoing assessment of the impacts of the cyber breach, which took place on March 22.
    The city also said on Twitter Wednesday that “there is no evidence to show that customer or employee data has been compromised.” But city officials have urged employees and customers to contact credit agencies and monitor their bank accounts as a precaution.
    Details about the attack itself remain thin. So far, authorities have only confirmed that the city experienced a ransomware cyberattack and city officials received a written demand related to it.
    Atlanta’s public-safety services such as 911, police, and fire-rescue are unaffected, officials say, as are systems related to the functioning of Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.
    At a news conference Monday Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that hackers had asked for $51,000, but there has been no formal confirmation of a ransom amount.
    “I just want to make the point that this is much bigger than a ransomware attack,” she said. “This is really an attack on our government, which means it’s an attack on all of us.”
    Ransomware is malicious software that blocks users from accessing some or all of their computer systems by locking them out until a ransom is paid. Officials haven’t said whether the city was going to pay the ransom.
    “Everything is up for discussion,” was the Mayor’s reply when asked directly by reporters whether the city would pay up.

    Law enforcement response

    A private company, SecureWorks, has been brought in to investigate the breach. SecureWorks and the city’s incident response team are working with law enforcement, including the FBI, Homeland Security and the Secret Service, as well as independent forensics experts and educational partners like Georgia Tech, to determine exactly what happened.
    “We have completed the investigation and containment phases,” SecureWorks CEO Mike Cote said on Monday. “We are transitioning to the recovery phase to include the methodical restoration of critical systems.”

      RansomWare attack exposes IT vulnerabilities

    Officials are being tight-lipped about specifics. Bottoms likened the circumstances to “a hostage situation.”
    “Just as we wouldn’t give away too much information if there was a physical hostage, we do have to be careful,” she said. “I can tell you that we are working around the clock.”
    A handful of city employees contacted by CNN Tuesday declined to comment, saying they were told not to discuss the attack.
    Meanwhile, officials are focused on establishing manual workarounds for divisions that have been impacted.
    “We have teams that are going to every single department,” Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Richard Cox said Monday. “We’re mapping out the manual processes so that we position ourselves to take care of the city and keep it running if this is to go into the future.”
    In other words, some city officials are filling out forms by hand. Asked how long such a process is sustainable, Bottoms cracked a joke.
    “Well, it was a sustainable model until we got computer systems, so … for some of our younger employees, it will be a nice exercise in good penmanship.”

    Services available in person

    Some services that are not available online can be accessed in person by coming to City of Atlanta offices.
    Among them: new water service requests and hydrant-meter renewals and returns. Most planning services are still available in person, but officials say processing times may take longer than normal. And residents needing inspections or help with zoning can still access services by appearing in person or by calling the department.
    But the city said Wednesday on Twitter that its Municipal Court does not have the ability to process ticket payments — online or in person.
    Officials say anyone set for a walk-in Municipal Court appearance will be rescheduled automatically without penalty and that no failure-to-appear warrants will be issued during this time. They recommend checking with the Georgia Department of Driver Services if the case involves the status of a driver’s license.

      Watch this robot get attacked by ransomware

    The city’s payroll is also unaffected, Cox confirmed last week.
    The Mayor said the cyberattack underscored the need to shore up critical systems.
    “Just as much as we really focus on our physical infrastructure, we need to focus on the security of our digital infrastructure,” Bottoms said. “I am looking foward to us really being a national model of how cities can shore themselves up and be stronger because of it.”

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    Hawaii false missile alert ‘button pusher’ is fired

    (CNN)The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee who triggered the false ballistic missile alert earlier this month has been fired, the state adjutant general said Tuesday.

    The unnamed employee said he didn’t know it was an exercise, even though five other employees in the room heard “exercise, exercise, exercise, which indicates that it is a drill,” an investigating officer told reporters.
    Retired Brig. Gen. Bruce Oliveira said, “When it became apparent that the real-world alert was issued,” the employee who pushed the button “seemed confused, he froze and another employee had to take over his responsibilities.”
      The employee “had a history of confusing drill and real-world events,” Oliveira said.
      The firing was the latest fallout after an internal investigation found “that insufficient management controls, poor computer software design and human factors contributed” to the alert and a delayed correction message on January 13.
      Maj. Gen. Joe Logan,Hawaii’s state adjutant general, said Vern Miyagi, administrator of the state emergency management agency, resigned Tuesday.
      Miyagi accepted full responsibility for the incident and the actions of his employees, Logan said. Another employee is in the process of being suspended without pay and a third employee resigned before any disciplinary action was taken, Logan said.
      Logan said he appointed Brig. Gen. Moses Kaoiwi, director of joint staff with the Hawaii National Guard, as interim agency administrator.

      Recommendations are released

      Oliveira made two dozen recommendations, including eliminating practice drills during a shift change, stronger confirmation prompts for those sending an alert and improved training.
      Oliveira’s findings echoed an earlier Federal Communications Commission report.
      The FCC report said the emergency management worker thought the state was under attack and sent out the warning that sent residents into panic.
      “Many things went wrong in Hawaii,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a published statement. “I don’t say this for the purpose of casting blame or disparaging Hawaiian officials. We simply need to identify the problems in order to fix them — not just in Hawaii, but anywhere else where they may exist.”
      The warning worker said he heard “this is not a drill” but did not hear “exercise, exercise, exercise” in the drill call and sent out an incoming ballistic missile alert throughout the state, according to the FCC.
      “According to the written statement, this day shift warning officer therefore believed that the missile threat was real,” the FCC said.
      The worker would not speak to FCC officials in person and submitted the account of the incident in writing, the report noted.
      The event sent the state into panic for 38 minutes until officials sent out a message saying the warning was a mistake.
      Gov. David Ige came under criticism over the delay and he later said that he couldn’t hop on Twitter because he forgot his password.
      Asked at Tuesday’s press conference whether he showed a lack of leadership, Ige said: “We are definitely committed to providing a warning to the public of impending natural or manmade disasters.”
      “We already made the changes required to assure that it never happens again,” the governor added.

      Chaos on January 13

      About 8:06 a.m. on January 13, one employee initiated the ballistic missile alert drill around the time of a shift change at the emergency operation center. The words “exercise, exercise, exercise” were uttered, which is the normal procedure for such drills, an incident timeline said.
      The fired employee later incorrectly activated the “real-world” alert code.
      Alert messages appeared on the cell phones of agency employees, setting off a series of phone calls to the operations center.
      “There is no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii — this is a drill,” one employee at the center later broadcast to counties on a warning system, according to the timeline.
      At one point, one employee directed the fired employee to send out the cancel message on the alert system. But the fired employee “just sat there and didn’t respond,” the timeline said. Another employee seized the fired employee’s mouse and sent out a cancellation message.
      “At no point did Employee 1 assist in the process.”
      News media were contacted and the state agency reached out to local, state and federal officials. It also tweeted that there was no missile threat.
      About 8:45 a.m. — 38 minutes after the false alert went out — a message was posted through the emergency alert system on local television, radio and audio broadcasts, and a television crawler banner. The message said: “False Alert. There is no missile threat to Hawaii.”

      FCC’ Hawaii didn’t have ‘reasonable safeguards’

      There were two “troubling things” in the FCC preliminary findings, Pai said.
      The state “didn’t have reasonable safeguards in place to prevent human error from resulting in the tranmission of a false alert,” the statement said. The second main problem, Pai said, was there was no plan of action if a false alert went out.

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      Veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan could be deported

      (CNN)Miguel Perez Jr. discovered that two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the US Army and an accompanying case of PTSD are no shield from US immigration laws.

      There are serious factors working against Perez: He was convicted on a felony drug charge and discharged from the Army for drug use; military service is no guarantee of citizenship; and he never applied for citizenship, despite being eligible to apply in 1994.
      He said he fears deportation would do more than separate him from his family in the United States, including his two children born here. He thinks it could kill him.
        The substance-abuse and mental-health counseling he desperately needs would not be readily available in Mexico, he said. He also predicts that drug cartels would recruit him because of his combat experience and murder him if he didn’t cooperate.
        So he started a hunger strike Wednesday, not long after his latest setback in federal court.
        “If they are sentencing me to a certain death, and I am going to die, then why die in a place that I have not considered my home in a long time?” he asked.
        “There is a saying that goes, ‘I’d rather die like a man than live like a coward.’ In Mexico, I will have to live in fear, like a coward. No. I’d rather die right here, like a man fighting against something that makes no sense — this thing of deporting veterans does not make sense even if they try to justify with the law.”
        Though US Citizenship and Immigration Services has provisions for expediting troops’ naturalization process, a chief requirement is that the applicant must demonstrate “good moral character.”

        Veterans not immune from deportation

        Perez is not the first veteran of the US military to face deportation.
        In 2016, CNN interviewed several veterans in Tijuana, Mexico, after they were deported from the United States. Those veterans said they considered their homes to be the United States, not Mexico.
        Like some of those veterans, Perez mistakenly believed enlisting in the US military would automatically make him a US citizen, said his lawyer, Chris Bergin.
        In a statement, ICE said the agency “respects the service and sacrifice of those in military service, and is very deliberate in its review of cases involving US military veterans. Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an alien with military service must be authorized by the senior leadership in a field office, following an evaluation by the office of chief counsel.”
        “ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion, when appropriate, on a case-by-case basis for members of the armed forces who have served our country. ICE specifically identifies service in the US military as a positive factor that is considered when deciding whether or not prosecutorial discretion should be exercised.”
        Between fiscal years 2002 and 2015, US Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalized more than 109,000 service members.

        Enlisted before 9/11

        Perez was born in Mexico and came to the United States at age 8 when his father, Miguel Perez Sr., a semi-pro soccer player, moved the family to Chicago because of a job offer, Perez said.
        His father, mother and his 47-year-old sister were born in Mexico but are now naturalized American citizens, he said. His 27-year-old sister and his daughter, 21, and son, 11, are American citizens because they were all born in the United States, he said. His daughter’s mother, who he divorced, and his son’s mother, to whom he was not married, are both citizens, Perez said.
        Perez said he played soccer as a kid, and when he was 12 his team won a state championship. He did well in math and science and started college after finishing high school.
        But Perez said he left college a few credits short of an associate’s degree and enlisted in the Army in 2001, several months before 9/11.
        Perez said he served in Afghanistan from October 2002-April 2003 and May 2003-October 2003, his lawyer said. Bergin added that Perez left the Army in 2004 with a general discharge after he was caught smoking marijuana on base.

        Post-Army problems

        After leaving the Army, Perez’s life went off the tracks. He attributed these problems to post-traumatic stress disorder, which was not immediately diagnosed.
        “I saw many horrible things, things I can only, until this day, speak about with a mental health specialist and even then after I say them, the nightmares start up again,” he said. “They are things that happened to me personally, that happened to others, and to Afghans themselves — 12-, 11-year-old kids split in half by 50-caliber bullets at our hands.
        “These are things that you never forget and sometimes when you try to forget, they come back at night.”
        He said he became addicted to drugs and drank heavily.
        “After the second tour, there was more alcohol and that was also when I tried some drugs,” he said. “But the addiction really started after I got back to Chicago, when I got back home, because I did not feel very sociable.”
        Perez also had legal problems, including a conviction in 1998 for possessing a small amount of marijuana, Bergin said.
        In 2007 he was charged with misdemeanor battery but the charge was dropped, Bergin said. At that time, he had already been diagnosed with PTSD at a veterans hospital, Bergin said.
        He was later arrested on a felony cocaine charge.

        Cocaine conviction

          These US military veterans were deported to Mexico

        Perez was convicted in February 2010 in Cook County, Illinois, on charges related to his delivery more than 2 pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer. He was sentenced to 15 years on a charge of manufacture or delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance, ICE spokesperson Nicole Alberico said.
        With that conviction, he lost his green card, Perez said.
        But prison had its benefits.
        “It was in prison that I was finally able to get the treatment I needed for my PTSD,” he said. “They had a lot of substance abuse programs, and now is when I finally feel like the person I used to be. I won’t say a new person, but like when I was younger.”
        He also finished his associate’s degree.
        Perez had served half his sentence when ICE began deportation proceedings, with a judge ordering his removal in March 2017. Perez said he was surprised to be sent to an ICE detention facility because he thought he already had citizenship.
        “Although he was a vet, he never applied for US citizenship for many years he was eligible,” a senior immigration official told CNN. “He became a permanent resident in 1989. This means he could have applied for citizenship as early as 1994.”
        During his time fighting deportation, Perez became closer to his parents, who often visited him. His mother, Esperanza Perez, came to court to show support for her son.
        Perez said he also started talking more to his children. On Saturday night he spoke with his son and they talked about Sunday’s Super Bowl and sports.
        Perez appealed the deportation order, but a three-judge panel of the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his plea last week.
        He could be deported this month.

        Final appeals

        Perez’s lawyer, Bergin, filed an appeal to the full panel of the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and will ask for a stay of deportation while the appeals process plays out.
        Bergin said the requests for a stay are based on two arguments: A medical finding says Perez needs immediate attention for PTSD, and an application for retroactive citizenship — based on the date of his enlistment in the military — is still being reviewed.
        Finally, supporters have petitioned Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner for a pardon. A spokeswoman for the governor said the petition is under review.

        Fear of drug cartels

        Perez said the hunger strike is more than a symbolic gesture.
        “I am fasting because if my deportation is final and they send me back to Mexico, I will be separated from my kids, from my family, my community, my home — they are throwing me out, sentencing me to death,” he said.
        The drug cartels in Mexico are a real threat, he said.
        “When I was in prison, I was already getting offers, people who would say to me that if I was deported (the cartels) would send word back and all would be OK,” he said. “They would offer me the opportunity to make a lot of money and a lot of other things, but that was just a way to say, ‘You belong to us when you get back here.'”
        He said he’s paid the price for his drug case, and is angrier by the day about his deportation.
        “I went through the system and I accepted all of the consequences that came with declaring myself guilty of a crime, the way it should be,” Perez said. “And now they want to deport me with nothing, without thinking to themselves that I sacrificed my life fighting for this country.
        “It’s very sad and now I’m starting to get angry because those same people that authorize, that support the deportation of veterans, those are the same people that the rest of us fought to protect.”

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        Amateur astronomer discovers NASA satellite that’s been lost for 12 years

        (CNN)For 12 years, a NASA satellite known as IMAGE was lost wide.

        But earlier this year, a novice astronomer been trying to find traces from the secretive Zuma mission launched by SpaceX when he happened onto something entirely different: signals from the satellite which was not taken into account.
        Scott Tilley, who’s located in Canada, then matched the signal to some NASA spacecraft and theorizedthat it had been the lengthy-lost satellite IMAGE. He blogged and tweeted about his findings. Also, he arrived at to the main investigator who was simply accountable for the satellite’s mission, according to Tilley’s blog.
          NASA trigger to research and trained its Deep Space Network, a constellation of radio telescopes used to talk with space missions, to look for the satellite. Five separate antennas then confirmed the signal and matched the satellite’s identity.
          On Tuesday, NASA confirmed the re-discovered satellite is indeed IMAGE.
          And also the space agency also had some unpredicted news.
          “The NASA team has had the ability to read some fundamental housekeeping data in the spacecraft, suggesting that a minimum of the primary control product is operational,” based on NASA’s statement.
          IMAGE launched in March 25, 2000. It is built to read the Earth’s magnetosphere — the magnetic field that shields our planet. It had been hailed like a success, helping pre-plan our planet’s magnetic field at length and led to 37 unique scientific breakthroughs, according its final report. It effectively completed its initial scheduled mission — initially slated for 2 years — coupled with experienced its extended phase once the satellite stopped routine contact on December 18, 2005.
          NASA attempted to get back charge of the satellite, however it ultimately figured that the spacecraft likely endured a celebration that disabled its power and wasn’t in a position to recover. The mission have been declared in 2007.
          After IMAGE was lost, its original software and databases required to operate the satellite have been decommissioned. NASA stated that it’ll now make an effort to adapt the program to the more contemporary systems.
          “Scientists and engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, continuously attempt to evaluate the information in the spacecraft to understand more about the condition from the spacecraft,” NASA stated.
          Following the confirmation, Tilley wrote on his blog: “Welcome back IMAGE! Serve us well again…”
          He told the CBC: “As somebody who’s loved space since as being a kid, I am pleased to have contributed something positive.”

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