Threat Management, Malware, Ransomware

Encryption Key-stone state: Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus struck by ransomware

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The Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus has been attacked by ransomware, locking officials with the state organization out of their computers and rendering the group's website unavailable since Friday.

As of Monday, Mar. 6, any attempt to access www.pasenate.com results in an "Error establishing a database connection." The web pages for individual Democratic state senators are also unavailable, while Senate Republicans have not been affected. The FBI and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office are actively investigating the attack. 

According to local sources, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa issued a statement acknowledging the infection and reassuring constituents, as the caucus continues to operate offline. “Officials from the caucus have been in contact with law enforcement to investigate the incident and are working with Microsoft to restore the IT system. There is currently no indication that the caucus system was targeted or that any data has been compromised,” Costa said in the statement, as reported by Harrisburg-area Fox affiliate WPMT.

In a separate interview on Monday, Sen. Costa told SC Media that the investigation currently involves "determining the point of entry and level of dissemination of the virus," noting that more information regarding the source of the infection will likely be made available by the evening. Once authorities officially reach this conclusion, "we'll begin to map out our recovery plan going forward," he added.

Costa did not elaborate as to whether there was a ransom demand, but did confirm that the caucus has adequate back-ups for all of its data, although it will not restore this data until its systems are thoroughly scrubbed free of infection.

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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