Seattle Public Library Website and Ebook Lending Are Down Following Ransomware Attack

Seattle Public Library Website and Ebook Lending Are Down Following Ransomware Attack

The Seattle Public Library has been hit by a “ransomware event” that’s impacted several systems, including ebook lending and the library’s website, according to a new report from the WordPress blog maintained by the library. But the library’s physical collection of books, CDs, and DVDS, are all still available to patrons who visit.

While the issue is being described as a ransomware “event,” it’s not immediately clear what data has potentially been compromised or who might be behind the intrusion. Ransomware hackers typically gain access to systems and either lock up crucial data or threaten to leak sensitive information unless payment is made to the intruders.

Anyone visiting the Seattle Public Library is encouraged to bring their physical library card or have their library card number available. Librarians are using paper forms to check out physical media, according to the WordPress blog, since staff computers have also been impacted by the attack.

The ransomware issue was first discovered in the early morning hours of Saturday, according to the blog, right around the same time the library planned on doing scheduled maintenance over the Memorial Day Weekend.

“The Library quickly engaged third-party forensic specialists, contacted law enforcement, and took our systems fully offline to interrupt and better assess the nature and impacts of the event,” the Seattle Public Library explained in its blog post.

“With our external partners, we continue to investigate the source of this disruption and are working as quickly and diligently as we can to confirm the extent of the impacts and restore full functionality to our systems. Privacy and security of patron and employee information are top priorities,” the library continued.

Ransomware has become a big business for hackers around the world, often targeting large businesses that can afford to pay millions of dollars. But this isn’t the first time a major American city’s library system has been targeted. Boston Public Library was hit by a cyberattack in 2021, though it’s not clear if Boston paid any kind of ransom to restore its systems.

The Seattle Public Library also notes that since physical books can’t be checked back into the electronic system, patrons with outstanding books should just hold onto them for a while until things come back online. Unfortunately, there’s no timeline yet on when that might be. But the library doesn’t charge daily late fees so there should be no worries about that.

“Our hard-working staff, whose jobs have become more challenging without technology access, are ready and able to assist you to check out materials and use our spaces and amenities,” the library said. “Although you cannot currently place holds, you are welcome to pick up holds already on the shelves.”

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