Levy County Sheriff Office’s non-emergency phone lines held for ransom

Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 7:33 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -An unknown attacker is trying to defund the police the old fashioned way, through blackmail. As a result of a cyber attack, residents won’t be able to reach the Levy County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line for an indefinite amount of time. We’ll show you how the attack escalated.

TV20's Landon Harrar reported, "basically how a denial of service cyber attack works is a number calls the sheriff's office every tenth of a second which immediately jams up all the lines. This means nobody calling in can get through because all the lines are full and also means nobody inside the sheriff's office can call out even to deputies working in the field."

The attack initially started Thursday around noon and even forced a night time deputy to relay messages back and forth from those in the field by cell phone. Sheriff Bobby McCallum said, “the deputies if they had to call in they would call his cell phone so they could communicate and we could keep the one line that we had for dispatch to call out on open.”

It was thought the issue was resolved around 1 am Friday morning but once they announced the lines were open again around 10 am the attack resumed and this time with a voice on the other end of the phone. Sheriff Mccallum explained, “they identified themselves as a group and that they have 3 million lines to tie up and take over our phone system and then they made a ransom demand for millions of dollars.”

The non-emergency lines remain unplugged but 911 has not been affected. Sheriff McCallum is temporarily allowing anyone who needs non-emergency help to call 911. "As much as that goes against the grain for the 911 system we have no choice but to allow our public and citizens to contact us through that means if it's absolutely necessary."

The best way to reach the sheriff’s office now is by e-mail or by messaging them on their Facebook page with both being closely monitored. The FBI and FDLE are also involved. No other sheriff’s offices have reported similar attacks although Lake City PD says they had a disruption of service for around an hour Thursday but it went away.

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