Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, is working to secure $500,000 for the City of Lodi to fund upgrades that will secure the city’s computer system.

This comes on the heels of what the city has referred to as a computer incident, a cyberattack that knocked several key phone lines out of service, including the non-emergency number for the Lodi Police Department, the emergency outage line for Public Works, and the main numbers for City Hall and the finance division.

The problem was first discovered by city staff on April 1, and it was believed to have been corrected a month later. However, the problem returned and affected the Lodi Police Department’s software network in May, which interrupted their phone line.

Cooper, who chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on State Administration, is recommending Lodi receive the funds needed to prevent future cyberattacks.

“The intent of the money is to bolster firewalls, and install more secure monitoring software that will be used to unearth system issues,” Lodi Mayor Mark Chandler said.

Cybersecurity is of the utmost importance, Cooper said in a statement. As the commander of the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force, he has advocated for more stringent cybersecurity regulations and better protection of constituents’ personal data.

“Cyber warfare is plaguing cities across the United States including the City of Lodi who fell victim to an attack,” Cooper said in the statement, released Thursday.

Chandler voiced his concerns of the increasing threat of cyberattacks by foreign aggressors, stating, “A lot of these attacks are from people in the Middle East and Asia. It makes it impossible for our government to monitor these issues because they do not have jurisdiction in other countries to stop the people behind these attacks.”

In the statement released by Cooper's office, Chandler is quoted as saying, “Criminals are increasingly targeting municipalities in ransomware attacks. The attacks can shut down phone lines, police computer systems, water electric and wastewater systems if successful. Attacks have cost millions of dollars in communities as large as Atlanta and Baltimore.”

Ransomware is a malicious software attack designed to block access to a computer system through encryption of all the files. The attackers demand a sum of money be paid to release the data.

Ransomware attacks have become more prevalent, and have gained widespread attention following costly attacks in large cities such as Baltimore.

Baltimore was hit with a ransomware attack on May 7. The hackers demanded $76,000 to release the encryption keys. However, the mayor refused to pay the ransom. As a result, the city has spent $18.2 million to restore computer systems — an effort that is still in progress.

Baltimore Deputy Chief of Staff Sheryl Goldstein told a CBS affiliate that hackers had a tight grip on Baltimore's systems. Only 70 percent of city employee email accounts are active again, she told the news station. Goldstein hopes that by the end of the week, 95 percent of employees will have full access to their email.

Lodi officials have not stated whether the city was struck by ransomware. However, an email obtained by News-Sentinel staff indicates the city did not pay a ransom to decrypt its system because it already had most of its data backed up.

Due to cyberattacks in previous years, the city obtained cyber insurance, and its deductible is capped at $50,000, according to the email. It has not been verified when the city first obtained the insurance. City representatives declined to comment on this information.

In September 2015 the city was hit with a distributed denial of service attack, also known as a DDoS, according to Skyler Wonnacott, Cooper's communications director.

In a DDoS attack, multiple compromised computer systems attack a target such as a server, website or network resources, eventually slowing it or taking it offline and preventing users from accessing it.

According to Wonnacott, Cooper meets with city leaders annually to find out what the officials need for their community, and at the most recent meeting, Lodi requested funding for cybersecurity.

It could not be confirmed whether the request from city officials came before or after the recent cyberattack.

“(Cooper) takes these cyberattacks seriously. This serves as a wake-up call, Lodi is an example of what is happening in cities across the nation. Baltimore is still dealing with the aftermath of ransomware attacks,” Wonnacott said.

In a News-Sentinel article published on May 1, City spokesman Jeff Hood stated issues caused by the computer incident have been resolved in regards to customer service, and that the city has hired an outside computer firm to help resolve the remaining issues.

Although the extent of the issues has not been made clear, city officials say residents' personal information was not exposed in the attack.

When pressed for additional information, City Manager Steve Schwabauer declined to comment under the advice of counsel.

“We will be releasing information in the next two weeks about what transpired, and I will be able to answer questions then,” Schwabauer said.

The cost associated with correcting this cyberattack is not known.

Governor Gavin Newsom has until June 30 to sign California’s 2019-20 state budget, which includes $500,000 dollars for the City of Lodi to upgrade its servers to a more modern and secure system.

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