Malware attack locks Pa. Senate Dems out of computers

    Lawmakers will return to session next week. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo, file)

    Lawmakers will return to session next week. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo, file)

    Pennsylvania’s entire Senate Democratic Caucus was locked out of its computer system Friday.

    An automatic alert went out across the Senate Democrats’ IT network when it detected malware on the system early Friday morning. By the time lawmakers and staffers got to the Capitol, their computers were essentially unusable.

    The offices remained open, with employees making do as best they could. They resorted to individually texting out press releases on the attack to reporters.

    They have little choice. All their data and computer systems are essentially being held hostage by malware designed to block access to computers until users pay a ransom fee.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    A spokeswoman in the office of Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said lawmakers are working with the FBI to figure out what happened, and they don’t think any data was compromised.

    She also said it doesn’t appear the Senate Democrats were targeted for any specific reason.

    Asked if the caucus has backups of its data and programs, the spokeswoman declined to comment, saying that information is part of the investigation.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal