New information emerged Monday about computer viruses affecting Potter County.
Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner confirmed to KAMR Local 4 News that the malware is in fact ransomware. Judge Tanner said this is day 17 dealing with the ransomware problem, and the malware has likely been in the county’s computer system since January.
During a press conference on April 30, Judge Tanner originally said the viruses were not ransomware, saying, “It was a malicious disruption, that’s all it was. No ransomware.”
Last week, she sent an email to elected officials and department heads saying it is ransomware. Judge Tanner claims an employee then leaked the information despite her request for employees not to share.
“I was trying to be respectful of everyone’s privacy and what all, and so they were not thinking I was being forthcoming with them. Department heads and elected officials, they were a little unhappy with me because I wasn’t telling them everything,” said Judge Tanner.
Judge Tanner said she avoided making the public aware of the ransomware because it gives the perpetrators the upper hand. She said it is a choice she made working with government agencies to resolve the problem.
“It wasn’t specifically their orders. It was an indirect order to not share it, but I took that serious because I don’t know computer language. So, I just said ‘Yes sir, I won’t tell,’ and then I decided to tell the elected officials and maybe I shouldn’t have. Apparently, I shouldn’t have.”
Potter County’s files are encrypted and out of reach unless they pay the ransom.
“We had a guy here from DIR (Texas Department of Information Resources). He looked into it and got their email address, emailed them and said, ‘How much do you want?’ and they told us and we’re not paying it. We’re just not going to pay it, because 99% chance is they won’t let you have your files back anyway,” Judge Tanner said.
As a result of the ransomware, Potter County’s software is still not restored. Past emails are lost and so are many email addresses.
Judge Tanner said the Potter County Clerk, Sheriff’s Office, and District Clerk have been hit the hardest.
She said Potter County is continuing to work with several agencies to rebuild the county’s lost data, but in the meantime, she expects to lose revenue as systems are still slow.