- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 4, 2017

Democrats in the Pennsylvania state Senate were locked out of the party’s computer system Friday after it was sidelined by a cyberattack.

The chamber’s top Democrat acknowledged the incident in a written statement sent to journalists’ phones Friday after the computer system became inoperable, PennLive.com reported.

Malware was discovered on the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus’s IT network early Friday, “making systems and data inaccessible to caucus members and employees,” State Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said in the statement.

Specifically the Senate’s systems became infected with ransomware, a strain of malicious software that typically enables an attacker to encrypt an infected computer’s contents and hold it hostage until the victim either pays a ransom or finds a workaround.

“There is currently no indication that the caucus system was targeted or that any data has been compromised,” Mr. Costa’s statement said.

Senate Republicans and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s office conduct business on different systems than the Democratic Caucus and were unaffected by the cyberattack, local media reported. Keystone Democrats hold 16-seats in the state’s 50-member Senate.

Computer experts from Microsoft have been brought on in a bid to help restore the party’s IT system, Mr. Costa said. Law enforcement officials, including federal authorities with the FBI, are investigating the breach, PennLive.com reported.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro spoke with Mr. Costa Friday evening about the incident and is taking the ransomware attack “very seriously” his spokesman, Joe Grace, told the website.

The FBI warned last year that ransomware attacks have increased recently in terms of scope and sophistication, and urged organizations to patch their computer networks of any vulnerabilities that could be exploited by money-hungry cybercriminals.

Ransomware caused more than $200 million in damages during the first three months of 2016, the FBI said last spring, and upwards of $1 billion annually.

The Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus’s IT network remained offline after 5 p.m. Friday, according to PennLive.

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