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12 Jan, 2022 16:08

Ransomware attack cripples jail

The Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque went into lockdown after the attack disrupted vital systems
Ransomware attack cripples jail

A suspected ransomware attack in New Mexico has disrupted services across an entire county, including a local jail in Albuquerque that went into lockdown after losing access to camera feeds, databases, and automatic doors.

The incident, which occurred on January 5 in Bernalillo County, has resulted in inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in the state’s largest city being confined to their cells. Phone and internet services at the jail were also affected, leaving staff unable to check prisoner records.

The cyber attack also took down – and possibly corrupted – vital jail databases, including its incident-tracking database, which records all reports of violence at the facility such as fighting, use of force, and allegations of sexual assault.

In an emergency court notice, county lawyers noted that the “unusable” automated door system had meant “staff had to use keys to manually open facility doors.” Attorney Taylor Rahn revealed that there had been “no access to cameras within the facility” since the evening of the attack.

Visitor access to the detention center was also suspended as the jail went into lockdown, according to an Albuquerque Journal newspaper report about the wider service disruptions at government buildings across New Mexico’s most populous county that left many offices closed.

In a statement on Monday, the county notified the public that services were still “limited,” requesting people to “understand the gravity of this ransomware issue.” Among the systems affected were those at the Probate Court, which was “unable to docket new cases” while “operational intake and release” of inmates continued at the MDC.

The lockdown also apparently sparked a legal wrinkle since the county risked potentially violating a 1995 lawsuit settlement about confinement conditions at its jails, according to The Verge. Under the terms of that deal, inmates are given privileges, including time out of cells and regular access to phones and other devices.

In its emergency filing, the county noted that “limited out of cell time may have an impact on inmates’ ability to access telephones and tablets” and warned that the MDC “may be unable to gather data” required by the settlement “depending on the length of the impact of the attack.”