County Computers Infected With Computer Virus Demanding Money - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

County Computers Infected With Computer Virus Demanding Money

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YAKIMA, WA. -- Yakima County officials are glad to have their computers back to normal Thursday after their system was hit with a damaging computer virus Wednesday.

It wasn't an online hacker like we've heard so much about. This attack was malware, a program that infects computers. The real interesting thing is that the virus wouldn't let employees use their computers unless they paid money. It was like an electronic ransom note. 

It's an invisible enemy and it can strike anywhere, even right here in Yakima County. 

"It's not if you're going to be compromised, it's when you're going to be compromised," Director of Technology Services George Helton said. "When you are compromised, how do you react to it?"

On Wednesday, George and his team reacted by fighting off a type of virus known as a crypto-wall ransom malware. The virus was spread through an email, infecting first the Department of Corrections Medical Office and then the Prosecutor's Office. 

"The way it works is, it deletes itself completely, it leaves the encrypted files and a note that says we've encrypted your files, if you want them back, pay us money," Helton said.

It seems serious, but it's something George and his team deals with on a daily basis. Every day the county is threatened by viruses of all kinds. 

"The threat level is higher right now than it's ever been and we have more bad guys doing more sophisticated things than we ever have," Helton said.

That's why the county takes so many precautions. Technology defenses are located in this unmarked building protected by bomb proof glass. The protection you can't see includes firewalls that are top quality.

"We've been spending more money and more and more time defending against the bad guys than we ever have," Helton said.

A normal person can't see this online fight between good and evil but that doesn't mean it isn't happening right beneath out fingertips. 

George tells us the virus didn't steal any personal files from the computers. The county backs up their system every day and those backup files were simply used to replace the corrupted ones. George also says he think this virus could have come from the state network.