A ransomware attack took a New Mexico jail offline, leaving inmates in lockdown

The image is by Alex Castro.

The Albuquerque area jail has been without access to its camera feeds and automatic door mechanisms since last week. Inmates have been confined to their cells as a result.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that visitor access to the Metropolitan Detention Center was completely suspended as the jail was put into lock down. Staff at the jail were unable to look up inmate records because of the internet services being knocked offline.

Staff at the jail were unable to look up inmate records because of the internet services being knocked offline.

The inmates were placed on a lock up due to the lack of camera coverage. According to an emergency notice filed by the county, the incident tracking database containing all reports of fighting, use of force, and allegations of sexual assault was not available and is believed to have been corrupted by the attack.

In the early morning of January 5, 2022, the automatic door mechanisms at the MDC were not functional, meaning that staff had to use keys to open doors. One of the most concerning impacts of the cyber attack is that the facility cameras cannot be accessed by the MDC. There was no access to cameras as of January 5th.

The largest county in New Mexico was hit by a large ransomware attack on January 5th. All public offices were temporarily closed and county employees were unable to access any local government databases. The county office headquarters were only partially re-opened according to the press release.

The jail was placed in potential violation of the terms of a settlement in a lawsuit over conditions of confinement after the unexpected lock down. A 1995 lawsuit required county jails to adopt new protocols in response to broader complaints about overcrowding and other conditions, including a guarantee that inmates are given regular access to telephones and other communications devices.

The facility could violate the agreement if the internal computer network fails.

The emergency filing says thatimited out of cell time may have an impact on inmates ability to access telephones and tablets. The Settlement Agreement requires data to be gathered by the County, but it may not be possible due to the impact of the attack.

Her office said she was not available for comment. At the time of press, the email and voicemail messages had not been answered.

Private businesses and government institutions in the US are facing a variety of threats. The Department of Justice created a task force last year to coordinate information sharing between their divisions and outside agencies to tackle the problem of digital extortion. According to reports from the US Treasury, the payouts for 2021 will be the highest in history.