A prison in New Mexico forced to lock up after a cyber attack disabled cameras, doors


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Photography: Matias Nieto (Getty Images)

A suspected ransomware attack in New Mexico has disabled services for the entire district, including the local jail — which has frighteningly lost access to its cameras, facility databases and automated gates.

Bernalillo County, which is the most populous in the state and includes its largest city, Albuquerque, was thrown into chaos last week when a cyber attack disrupted services across the government. The attack, which took place on January 5, forced closure county offices, compromised databases and caused major problems to process everything from local property contracts to marriage permits, all relying on the county network.

“Most county buildings are closed to the public,” officials said in a statement soon after the attack. “However, county employees work remotely and given the circumstances will help the public as much as possible. Suppliers for county systems have been notified and are working to resolve issues and restore system functions. ”

What is most dramatic, county Metropolitan Detention Center lost access to some of its key security features – including camera transmission and automated shutters. For obvious security reasons, this has forced the county to close the entire prison, forcing all prisoners into their cells for the foreseeable future.

The Verge reports that the closure also sparked minor legal confusion, as it led the county into a potential breach of the 1995 settlement terms regarding the conditions of detention in prison. The settlement mandated that prisoners be given certain privileges – such as guaranteed time outside their cells and access to communication devices, such as telephones. Some of those privileges cannot be accepted in the current circumstances and, as as a result, the county was forced to file an urgent notice with federal court last week, asking the court to consider its unresolved “urgent” circumstances.

On top of that, the attack also disabled – and could have damaged – important prison databases, including the Incident Tracking Database, which catalogs all violent incidents occurring at the facility, including allegations of sexual assault and fights.

It’s unclear when this whole mess will clear up, but one thing’s for sure: it’s another sure sign that ransomware gangs are really, really crappy – and that we need better federal protection against them, in one way or another.


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