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St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office hit by cyber attack

St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office hit by cyber attack (WPEC)

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (CBS12) - The FBI is now working with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office to get its computer network back online.

The sheriff's office said much of it has been disconnected due to a cyber attack that was discovered early Tuesday morning.

911, emergency services, and dispatch are still online and deputies are carrying out their duties, according to Sheriff Ken Mascara. But the sheriff's office is using paper for recording keeping and day-to-day business.

"We are still arresting people. We have not put that on hold," Sheriff Mascara said. "Lots of paperwork is being hand delivered, currently."

According to the sheriff's office, the IT team is working with federal investigators to resolve the problem. FBI investigators told the sheriff's office the attack looks similar to others they've encountered, according to Mascara.

A number of services are impacted. Those include sheriff's office emails, some phone lines, arrest reports, fingerprinting, and criminal background checks. Deputies can still run drivers licenses through dispatch radios, Mascara said.

Mascara told reporters Tuesday that the county has decided not to pay the ransom. Officials discovered a suspicious email when they learned the sheriff's office's data was encrypted. They believe the email is demanding a ransom, but did not open it for fear it would further infect computers, Mascara said.

In all, due to backup servers, the sheriff's office only expects to lose roughly a day's worth of data.

"We don't feel it warrants paying a ransom," Mascara said. "We're going to lose about 24 hours worth of data."

As of a Tuesday news conference, the sheriff's office would not release what caused the ransomware attack. Typically, hackers breach servers through phishing emails or bogus links. Mascara cautioned against reports that the hack was started by an employee clicking on a corrupted email.

"We would hope by the end of the week we'll be back up and operating," Mascara said.

It's not the first government agency in our area to be affected by a cyber attack. The City of Riviera Beach and the City of Stuart both had ransomware attacks. Riviera Beach notably paid hackers roughly $600,000 dollars to regain access to their data.