ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico is no stranger to the impacts of cyberattacks. Early this year a ransomware attack shut down many Bernalillo County buildings and a week later Albuquerque Public Schools were also attacked.
Experts say it’s hard to predict a cyber attack. Friday at the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, FBI agents spoke with business owners and people who work in IT to share ways they can protect themselves and their employees from cyber attacks.
Russell Perea is an account manager at ABQ-IT. He says this happens often. “These types of things happen all the time, we’re seeing a spike in them so it’s definitely kind of picked up business for us.”
There’s a number of reasons why a hacker might attack public entities or small businesses. But a lot of times it revolves around money.
“We’ve seen a lot of ransomware attacks and that’s very different and I think most of it is like everything else. Unfortunately cyber criminals have evolved their techniques and the take or the ask that they’re asking for from these businesses depend on that business,” said Raul Bujanda with New Mexico’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.
These kinds of attacks could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions in ransom. In early January – a ransomware attack on Bernalillo County stopped many services for days on end. KRQE asked how much the county had to pay hackers in ransom but officials are not releasing details yet.
The county did release this statement:
“On January 5, 2022 Bernalillo County experienced a cyber-ware incident. The ransomware attack encrypted numerous servers, laptops and desktop computers. The County continued to operate and deliver critical services while the investigation, containment and recovery was underway.”
Specific details regarding the attacker and their methods cannot be shared due to an ongoing criminal investigation and potential disclosure of the County’s Tactical Response Plan. The County’s technology investment and strong cyber security protocols allowed the County to recover all systems.
Bernalillo County, in partnership with cyber forensics experts, were able to determine that no data was exfiltrated. The County continues to work with cybersecurity partners to strengthen its system and procedure to protect all systems.
With tensions continuing to rise between Russia and Ukraine, FBI agents say it’s important for businesses to stay alert. “There might not be an overt actual attack but that doesn’t mean that cyber actors might now be trying to infiltrate their systems for future attacks,” Bujanda said.
If a business or agency suspects they are under a cyberattack the first thing to do is call the FBI. “I know sometimes people think it’s a 1-800 number, is it really going to get to the FBI? Is it really going to get to the FBI locally? 100% it will,” said Bujanda.
According to a spokesperson with APS the school district was able to recover its systems without paying a ransom. We asked how much the ask was but did not hear back.