Seattle Public Library Crawling Back From Ransomware Event

Smart Cities

Ten days after major ransomware attack, many library services remain offline and key details are left unknown

Joel Leighton Seattle Public Library Crawling Back From Ransomware Event Photo of Seattle Public Library’s Capitol Hill Branch from the SPL website

June 4, 2044 – The Seattle Public Library has yet to fully restore its technology services since it was hit with a major cybersecurity event in late May.

Although the library is working to restore all of its functions, many of its electronic features, including access to the library’s catalog, remain offline with no estimated time of return.

“The Library is working diligently with forensic specialists to investigate the impacts of the ransomware event,” said Lauren Gentry, SPL’s Head of Communications. “During this time, our focus is on preserving the integrity of this investigation and securely restoring our systems.”

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission will meet to discuss implementation of a new program to fund cybersecurity services for eligible schools and libraries. 

Noting the growing problem of cyber attacks, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is supporting a $200 million pilot program to provide educational institutions with the means to safeguard students and patrons from cyber threats.

While all 27 SPL locations are open for physical material rental, the list of offline digital services remains high. According to the library blog, patrons and employees are unable to access library accounts, the library’s catalog, e-books, in-building Wi-Fi, public computers, and printers.

The cyberware event struck the library at a time of historically high patronage, Gentry said. In 2023 the library had a record-high 293,000 active patrons, providing physical and digital materials over 13.3 million times. The library also provided access to more than 340,000 public computer sessions.

The SPL was hit with the ransomware event in the early hours of Saturday, May 25 over Memorial Day weekend. Once the extent of the attack was discovered, both law enforcement and third-party forensic experts were brought in to investigate.

Neither the library nor law enforcement has released any new information regarding potential suspects. According to Gentry, the library is still investigating the full impact of the attack, alongside investigators.

“Such investigations take significant time and great care,” Gentry said.

Other major library systems attacked by ransomware, such as the British Library in October, 2023, have taken months to restore their operations.

Despite the limitations, the library is still hosting in-person events and providing some online resources for digital content rental.