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Lansing Board of Water & Light restores phone service after cyberattack

The municipalutility for Lansing, Mich.,has restored its main customer service line after an April 25 ransomware attackthat infected the utility's corporate systems.

The incidentdid not affect Lansing Board of Water & Light's water and electricity deliveriesbut caused the utility to instate a temporary self-imposed lockdown of its corporatenetworks, including email systems. No customer data, including credit card information,was stolen as a result of the incident, which the board said came through a phishingattack.

The utilityannounced May 2 that its customer service line was operating again on normal businesshours, but few other details have been released pending an investigation.

"Becausethis cyberattack is an ongoing criminal investigation, the BWL has been advisedby all law enforcement agencies to not disclose any additional details that wouldcompromise the ongoing investigation and our ability to restore full functionalityto our systems," the utility said.

In aransomware attack, malware encrypts, or locks, digitaldata and demands a ransom to release them. These kinds of attacks do not usually affect critical infrastructuresystems, however.

Ransomwareattacks "focus on the business critical data and can be effectively mitigatedby having security controls protecting the places where the data is stored: databases,files or cloud applications, and over the applications through which it is accessed,"said Itsik Mantin, director of security research at data and application protectionfirm Imperva Inc.

U.S.electric utilities are frequent targetsof cyberattacks. Although none have been reported to cause outages domestically,a cyberattack-driven blackoutin Ukraine in December 2015 has put U.S. utilities on higher alert. The industryhas emphasized the need for more information sharing to ward off potential attacks.President Barack Obama signed an omnibus billinto law in late 2015 that provided liability protection toelectric generators and other industries that share cyberthreat data with the governmentthat may include customers' or employees' personal information.