Hackers got into a state Health Department computer holding large amounts of personal information on state employees and public clients, state officials said Thursday, but there’s no indication yet that any information was stolen.

State Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Richard Opper said the computer server was taken off-line as soon as the unauthorized intrusion was discovered 10 days ago.

The server, one of three holding the massive health agency’s data, had personal and health information on clients using programs like food stamps, Opper said.

State Chief Public Information Officer Ron Baldwin said it’s the first time a large state computer-server has been broken into via the Internet by an unknown hacker.

Opper said the state doesn’t know yet how many people’s records may have been in the server, but that the state will offer them a year’s worth of free credit-monitoring and insurance against identify theft.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are taking the necessary steps to reach out to those whose information may have been stored in the server,” he said Thursday afternoon. “DPHHS is committed to answering questions clients and employees may have, and to help them take advantage of services we are offering.”

Opper said state officials first detected some “suspicious activity” on the server May 15 and hired a private security contractor to investigate.

The contractor concluded last Thursday that the server, which is at the state’s data center in Helena, had been hacked by someone who entered it via the Internet.

Baldwin said whoever hacked the system had placed some data inside it, but that so far, the investigation had uncovered no evidence of anyone removing information from the server.

The state has set up a toll-free line for the public to call with questions about the computer security breach, and whether it may affect them. The number 1-800-809-2956.

©2014 The Montana Standard (Butte, Mont.)