Hackers target Seattle Public Library system

May 28, 2024, 3:02 PM | Updated: 3:05 pm

Photo: Seattle Public Library...

The Seattle Public Library. (Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

(Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

As the Seattle Public Library (SPL) was preparing to go offline for maintenance over the holiday weekend, it became aware of what it stated was a “ransomware event.”

“We’re dealing with some bad actors here, and it’s impacting the community. It’s impacting our system and our staff,” SPL spokesperson Laura Gentry told KIRO Newsradio.

She said they became aware of the attack Saturday morning and took all of their systems offline.

“Basically, any system that needs to connect to the internet is down, right now. That includes things like our online catalog, our staff and public computers, access to e-books and e-audio books, and even our website, at this time,” Gentry explained.

Gentry did not go into details about the ransomware attack, but typically cybercriminals use malware to block users from accessing their data until they pay a ransom to the hacker.

SPL stated in a news release that it quickly engaged third-party forensic specialists, contacted law enforcement and took systems fully offline to assess the impact.

“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,” stated the news release.

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SPL said the systems will remain offline until they can ensure security.

“Unfortunately we don’t have a timeline for resolution at this time. I don’t want to make any promises,” Gentry said. “We’re working as hard as we can to bring any and all systems back online securely.”

The library stated it will continue to release updates.

“We are an organization that prides itself on providing you answers, and we are sorry that the information we can share is limited. At this time, securing and restoring our systems is where we are focused. We will update you in this space as we make progress on that work,” the release continued. “We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this difficult situation.”

However, the library is still open to patrons. SPL said people are welcome to enjoy spaces; check out physical books, CDs and DVDs in paper forms and that staff will continue to answer referral and reference questions.

The library also said while patrons cannot currently place holds, they are welcome to pick up holds already on the shelf. Also, people are encouraged to hold onto their materials a bit longer as the library will not charge daily late fines until the system is back up.

SPL also asks people to bring their physical library card or card number. It also noted that library summer hours will start June 20 and several locations will be open longer.

Seattle Public Library faces budget cuts, staffing shortages

In April, SPL announced it was closing 22 or its 27 locations for at least one day per week until the beginning of June, amid increasingly problematic staffing shortages and safety concerns.

In March at a Seattle City Council meeting, librarians expressed their frustrations, reported KIRO 7.

More deficits: Seattle Public Schools’ budget in disarray, could close 20 elementary schools

“When libraries close, it means the whole community loses a place to turn for learning and joy and safety and connection with each other,” Jacob, a local librarian, said according to KIRO 7.

Council member Tammy Morales released a statement stating she is worried the City of Seattle budget deficit will affect the libraries.

“This is a wake-up call for our city. Without urgent action, things will get so much worse than this. The City of Seattle is facing a more than $240 million budget deficit. There’s no way to cut that much from the budget without decimating essential services like our libraries, work on homelessness, and public safety programs for years to come,” Morales said.

Heather Bosch is an award-winning anchor and reporter on KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of her stories here. Follow Heather on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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