Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Orange County Transportation Authority officials were targeted by cyber extortionists in February, but although it cost about $660,000 to fix the problem agency officials expect to recoup the money with insurance, an OCTA official said Friday.

The vandals used a virus to freeze 88 of the public transportation provider’s 400 servers on Feb. 4. The extortionist offered to lift the virus in exchange for ransom, but the agency refused, according to Joel Zlotnik of the OCTA.

“If you pay ransom there’s no guarantee they would be released and there’s a likelihood you become a greater target because they know you’re willing to pay,” Zlotnik said.

The FBI advises companies and agencies to balk at the ransom demands.

Instead, OCTA’s experts worked around the clock and freed up the servers by late Feb. 6, Zlotnik said. It took about another month to completely scrub the virus, he said.

Twenty of the agency’s applications, such as email and voicemail, were affected, Zlotnik said.

“It’s very important to note there was no breach of any customer information, credit card information or personnel data,” Zlotnik said. “There weren’t any customer information breaches and it did not interrupt our operating services.”

–City News Service

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