Adobe Stock / Tomasz Zajda

It took almost three weeks for one of the nation's largest publicly owned water and sewer utilities to begin normal administrative operations. The Department of Watershed Management, which has faced some of the longest-lasting effects on services, has finally been able to mail out water and sewer bills. The publicly owned utility serves 1.2 million customers a day, and is most famously known for it's $300 million tunnel boring machine, "Driller Mike".

This cyberattack has already proven to be one of the most substantial ones to hit a major U.S. city. Experts say Atlanta was targeted once hackers came across system vulnerabilities they could exploit.

Although Atlanta's Public Works Department was only minimally impacted, it's a very real possibility that any public agency's security could be compromised. In 2016, for example, the Lansing (Mich.) Board of Water & Light paid cybercriminals $25,000 to unlock its internal communications systems. Departments across the country should be utilizing cyber hygiene to take advantage of the Internet of Things without compromising public safety or service.

In Atlanta, hackers used a computer virus known as SamSam to encrypt city data and demanded a bitcoin payment worth $51,000 to release the information. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms declined to say if the city was negotiating with the hackers. According to this article in the Scientific American, systems would have been brought back up to speed much more quickly if the hackers were paid.

While the internet has made our lives and jobs a lot easier, it's important to remember we're all at risk for these types of attacks. We must do everything we can to secure our systems so we don't fall victim to the next major cyberattack.