Johannesburg Power Company Crippled By Ransomware

Ransomware has once again reared its ugly head, and this time a power utility in South Africa has become the latest victim.

City Power is responsible for providing electricity to Johannesburg, the financial heart of South Africa and one of the major cities on the African continent.

According to Reuters, the ransomware has encrypted encrypted all of its databases, applications and network, which has impacted its services.

The Petya ransomware.

Ransomware attack

City Power is separate from the state electricity provider Eskom, which has been widely criticised in recent years for failing to ensure enough capacity in South Africa’s power network to meet its electricity needs.

City Power is an independent municipal entity, wholly owned by the City of Johannesburg, but it seems that its systems have not been sufficient safeguarded to prevent the ransomware attack, which is said to have closed its website.

In addition, like other ransomware attacks such as the City of Baltimore, other services have been affected.

The attack means that City Power customers may struggle to access a number of services, in particular buying electricity and uploading invoices.

There is also concern that the attack could affect its ability to respond to outages – a common occurance in a country that is affected by fierce electrical storms and illegal tapping of the power lines.

“The virus has attacked City Power database and other software, impacting most of our applications and networks,” City Power reported said in a tweet.

“We apologise to our customers in the @CityofJoburgZA,” another tweet added.

Some Johannesburg residents have told a local radio station they had been left without power.

According to Reuters, City Power said it was currently working to restore all the impacted applications.

Cyber scourge

Earlier this week a RiskIQ report found that cybercrime on the internet is costing the global economy £2.3 million per minute.

And unfortunately ransomware is a profitable business for criminals.

A Florida city in the US called Lake City that has a population of over 12,000 people opted to pay hackers after a ransomware attack.

The Lake City decision to pay the hackers $500,000 (£394,000) was aided by the fact that insurance would cover most of the ransom.

It came after the council of another city in Florida (Riviera Beach City) voted unanimously to pay hackers $600,000 who took over their computer systems via a ransomware attack earlier this year.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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