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Cyberattacks Can Cripple Cities, but Knoxville and Knox County Say They’re Prepared

Stella Sun, associate professor in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, discusses cyber security with the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Before city employees of Atlanta could even turn their computers back on last month, Knoxville’s IT Director Janet Wright sent an email to city staff: Stay vigilant.

Wright was responding to a cyberattack that crippled the region’s largest city and shut down city computers for five days.

The city was attacked with ransomware, a kind of malware that invades computers or computer networks and then locks them down, with the attackers demanding a ransom before they will unlock them.

Wright, and Knox County’s network and cybersecurity manager David Grindstaff, said the city and county are safe and their respective staffs work diligently to prevent what happened in Atlanta.

“We’re very aware, and (after Atlanta) we embarked on an employee education program to educate them on what emails might be unsafe and to look at and see if it was really sent from the person you thought it was from … before you click, think about what you’re clicking on,” Wright said.

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