Site that hosts Virginia laws brought down by ransomware attack

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/AP) — Parts of the General Assembly’s Legislative Information System (LIS), used by lawmakers to draft and track legislation, went down on Sunday night and have not yet been restored.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s spokesperson, Alena Yarmosky, confirmed that the site was brought down by a “ransomware attack” on Virginia’s Division of Legislative Automated Systems.

In a brief statement provided to The Associated Press, Yarmosky said the governor had been briefed on the matter and directed other executive branch agencies to offer help in “assessing and responding to this ongoing situation.”

According to an email sent to legislators by the Division of Legislative Automated Systems (DLAS), which maintains the LIS, they “experienced some critical impact events that have taken down key systems.”

This email was sent to members of the House of Delegates.

Impacted systems include a portal through which legislators draft bills and a site hosting the Code of Virginia, from which many other services pull.

This isn’t the first time the state’s websites have been brought down. Several sites, including the DMV, were brought down in September by an IT issue.

At that time, JLARC released a report saying the state desperately needed more IT security staff to help prevent future cybersecurity issues.

That report has itself been rendered unavailable by the LIS outage.

A top agency official told Virginia legislative leaders in an email obtained by The Associated Press that hackers using “extremely sophisticated malware” had accessed the system late Friday.

A ransom note with no specific amount or date was sent, according to the email sent Monday afternoon by Dave Burhop.

The agency was working with authorities to determine “the scope of the issue and plan for possible remediation,” Burhop wrote.

Brett Callow, a threat analyst at the firm Emsisoft, said Virginia is the 74th state or local government hit by ransomware attacks this year, though the first legislature he’s ever seen attacked.

“Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before,” Callow said.

The AP contributed to this report.

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