A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) was recently arrested in connection with a significant cyber attack on the tribe's website and digital data.
The networks remained down for some days while a police investigation was launched. The suspect, 36-year-old Benjamin Cody Long, was an employee of the EBCI at the time of the attack.
“Our tribal networks were attacked with ransomware that began to infect all of our tribal systems,” Principal Chief Richard Sneed said in a video posted to Facebook, according to a report by the Charlotte Observer. “This attack was not made just against the EBCI tribal government but an attack directed against every tribal citizen and employee.”
Sneed called described the attack as an "act of of domestic terrorism,” and noted that the man arrested was employed by the EBCI.
“As a result of the rapid response of our IT employees, the damage was contained," Sneed said in the video. "However, as a result, our servers are now powered down to protect our systems and data. The network will continue to be powered down so that the appropriate steps may be taken to ensure the security of our network.”
Sneed said that emergency services are still operating and that the tribe’s financial data was secure.
“There may, however, be a delay in services while we work with the software company to implement temporary access to that system while preserving the security of our data,” the chief said.
The attack was carried out in a bid to extract a ransom, the Observer reported. Malicious software is placed in the network with the extortionist then demanding payment before it is removed.