From: ABC7 News
By: Stephanie Sierra, 3/27/2023
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The ABC7 News I-Team has learned the FBI is still in negotiations with the ransomware group that hacked into the city of Oakland's network and leaked sensitive data last month.
The city's police officers association has accused Mayor Sheng Thao and the interim city administrator of stonewalling their attempts to get any update on the scope of the attack, the number of people impacted, and how the administration is working to prevent it from happening again.
"The city has ignored and stonewalled its own employees," said Barry Donelan, the president of the Oakland POA. "It's pathetic."
Donelan says police officers have already had new credit cards opened in their name, their social security numbers hijacked, and others are saying they can't file police reports properly because some systems are still down.
Six weeks after the city's network was hacked, Donelan says he got an email informing him all his information was lost, but the note came with an offer of a free year of credit monitoring.
"When you call the phone number they gave us, it responds back to all of us saying all your information has been compromised, that's it," said Donelan.
The Oakland POA sent two letters, first to the city administrator on March 6. Then to Mayor Sheng Thao on March 20, a week ago. Both attempts to get an update on the ransomware attack and the impacts to the thousands of current and former employees that may be affected.
Stephanie Sierra: "Have you heard any response?"
Barry Donelan: "No. No... I sent it multiple times. Nothing."
Sierra: "And the city administrator?"
Sierra: "Did you even get a response to the email?"
Donelan: "Nope. Nothing."
"Channel 7, you all have been our main conduit of information to city employees. I really appreciate you for that. But that's not what it should be, it should be our employer."
After five denies requests for an interview, the I-Team showed up at the mayor's press conference last week discussing housing to get an update on ransomware.
"Housing questions?" Mayor Thao asked the press.
"It's a ransomware question, can I still ask?" I-Team's Stephanie Sierra asked.
"No, that's already three," Mayor Thao said. "So thank you so much."
The Mayor told the press she has been vocal in regards to giving regular updates regarding ransomware. But Donelan says the requests from the POA have been ignored over the past week.
"All our efforts, like yours, to reach out to the administration have been blown off," Donelan said.
The I-Team reached out to the Mayor's office for further comment, but have yet to hear back. We did receive this statement from a city spokesperson:
"We have received the letter from the OPOA and are looking forward to meeting with them. The City of Oakland remains incredibly grateful for all our city employees who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to serving our community as our IT staff and partners throughout the City work to recover from the recent ransomware incident. Protecting the security of their personal information, and all data we maintain, is a top priority.
Immediately upon discovering the recent ransomware incident, we engaged cybersecurity and forensic professionals as well as federal law enforcement who continue guiding our investigation and recovery. Every step of the way, we have communicated with City employees - we've sent regular email updates to all employees, responded to frequently asked questions, hosted two employee information sessions, posted frequent website updates, and set up a dedicated call center and email inbox to respond to our employees' questions. In addition, we sent formal notification letters outlining the specific data that was breached as well as resources that we made available to those who were impacted both by email and in the mail.
The nature of these kinds of incidents demands that we balance our commitment to transparency with the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and the security of our systems. We will continue to communicate directly with our employees and our community, sharing updates as we build on our progress."
The city did not clarify why there was no response to either letter sent over the course of the past several weeks.
The mayor told us during last week's press conference "this is something we have inherited" - referring to the prior administration underinvesting in the IT Dept.
"Not responding to letters from your own employees is not an inherited problem," said Donelan. "It's your own."