January 10, 2020
Early Tuesday morning, just as CES 2020 was getting underway, the team that monitors computers for Las Vegas detected a potential cyberattack as the city’s systems were reportedly compromised. While city officials tweeted about the breach, the information was light on details regarding which operations had been affected or the extent of the attack. The timing was unfortunate, since the annual CES confab is one of the largest events in Las Vegas. Last year, the show attracted more than 175,000 people and 4,400 exhibitors, including a number of Fortune 500 companies.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the attack may have been initiated through email: “City officials were alerted at about 4:30 a.m. to the system breach, which likely occurred through an email, according to [city spokesman David] Riggleman, who added that the city’s IT department acted immediately.”
Riggleman noted that Las Vegas has been proactive in safeguarding its networks following the recent attacks on other U.S. cities. Las Vegas averages about two million emails on its network per month and contends with 279,000 monthly breach attempts.
Following a thorough assessment of the attempted attack, the city determined that its fast response thwarted any potential harm, for “what had the potential to be a devastating situation.” Riggleman explained in a follow-up report that officials do not believe there was any impact to system or personal data. While there were minimal interruptions to email on Tuesday, all systems were running normally by Wednesday.
“Ransomware attacks, where scammers use software to lock computer systems and demand money to return access, has struck cities such as Baltimore, New Orleans and Atlanta over the past two years with highly disruptive results,” notes the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
CNET adds: “More than 70 state and local governments in the U.S. were attacked last year, according to IT security company Barracuda Networks. Governments are prime targets, making up two-thirds of all known ransomware attacks in the U.S. last year. Malware has also hit hospitals, businesses and universities.”