City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza.
City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza. Credit: Pete Rosos

On Tuesday, Oakland’s Interim City Administrator G. Harold Duffey issued a local emergency order in response to a ransomware attack that began last week and has caused network outages for the city. 

According to the city, several non-emergency systems, including phone lines, are inoperable. Ransomware attacks are a tactic by hackers to lock cities and other organizations out of their digital systems by encrypting the organization’s data, thereby blocking access to it. The city is then made to pay a ransom in order to receive the digital keys that decrypt or unlock their data and systems.

Duffey declared an emergency to obtain the necessary equipment, and to potentially activate emergency workers if needed. According to the proclamation, the order is set to last seven days unless it is extended. The proclamation also includes language requesting the governor’s office and the federal government to issue a state of emergency and provide funds if needed.

The ransomware attack began the evening of Feb. 8 and systems were impacted the following morning. Yesterday, OPD announced through their official Twitter account that residents might experience delays in response times due to the cyberattack.

City officials said, however, that 911 dispatch, fire emergency services, and the city’s financial systems are not impacted at this time.

Oakland’s IT department is currently working with a couple of private firms to perform incident response and analysis and to conduct recovery efforts. Affected systems will remain offline until the matter is resolved. The city has yet to disclose the ransom amount.

The Oaklandside reached out to the city for comment but has not gotten a response.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Ricky Rodas is a member of the 2020 graduating class of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining The Oaklandside, he spent two years reporting on immigrant communities in the Bay Area as a reporter for the local news sites Oakland North, Mission Local, and Richmond Confidential. Rodas, who is Salvadoran American and bilingual, is on The Oaklandside team through a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.