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A Virginia legislative branch agency was struck by a ransomware attack, according to the office of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
Alena Yarmosky, a spokesperson for Northam, confirmed that Virginia’s Division of Legislative Automated Systems, which is the state legislature’s information technology agency, was hit in the attack, according to The Associated Press.
Yarmosky added that after being briefed on the issue, Northam directed agencies of the executive branch to assist in “assessing and responding to this ongoing situation.”
In this Sept. 1, 2020 file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam listens to a reporter’s question during a press briefing inside the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond, Va. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
The ransomware attack, which reportedly occurred late last Friday, comes during the state legislature’s preparation for the next legislative session, which is slated to start in January.
Ransomware attacks against government agencies and corporations have surged during the past year.
Forrest Smith / EyeEm via Getty Images
Brett Callow, a threat analyst at the firm Emsisoft, told the AP that Virginia is the 74th state or local government to be hit by ransomware attacks in 2021, but noted Virginia bears of the distinction of being the first legislature ever attacked as far as he knows.
“Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before,” Callow said.
Allan Liska, an intelligence analyst at the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, told the AP: “It continues to show that no organization is safe from these ransomware attacks. Anybody anywhere can be hit.”
A screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attack, as captured by a computer user in Taiwan, is seen on laptop in Beijing, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A top agency official emailed Virginia legislative leaders to tell them that hackers used “extremely sophisticated malware” and that the agency was working with law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, to get to the bottom of what happened.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.