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Pennsylvania Brings in Consultant After Data Loss Crisis

Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration is bringing in a specialized IT consultant to implement additional layers of control to data center protocols following a substantial data loss incident earlier this month.

Shutterstock/Timofeev Vladimir
(TNS) — Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration is bringing in a consultant specializing in information technology crisis after data was lost on state government computer servers.

An emergency procurement approved by the state’s Chief Information Officer Amaya Capellán on Jan. 19 permitted the hiring of Seattle, Wash.-based Layer Aleph for a 30-day contract at a cost of $530,000.

The emergency procurement, first reported by Capitolwire, identifies the need for this firm’s services as immediate “to add additional layers of control and recovery to prevent privileged user error from resulting in loss of application and/or data for services hosted in the” state’s data center.

Dan Egan, a spokesman for the governor’s Office of Administration that oversees the information technology office, said the office does not comment on pending procurements.

The Office of Administration justifies the need for acting urgently to bring in a consultant, saying, “Without the immediate restructuring of core technical systems and organizational functions, many agency and enterprise services could be at risk resulting in impacts to agencies and citizens.”

Meanwhile, a joint Senate State Government Committee and Communications and Technology Committee meeting is planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday to vet the cause of the data deletion and recovery efforts.

Officials from Shapiro’s administration last week confirmed data stored on the state’s computer system servers had been deleted affecting at least the state police and the State Employees’ Retirement System.

The administration blamed human error as the cause and confirmed one employee in the governor’s Office of Information Technology was fired. Multiple sources said there were at least two firings with other personnel changes resulting from the Jan. 3 incident that affected 77 servers.

Egan said his office doesn’t comment on personnel matters either, which is a break from past administrations’ practice of sharing termination dates for employees.

While some data has been recovered, Colette Smith, the director of state police’s Bureau of Forensic Services that operates seven crime labs, notified law enforcement on Jan. 22 that some data that was inadvertently deleted “will no longer be accessible,” according to a Spotlight PA story.

She said the affected records were processed between June 15 and the start of this year. “It will take time to identify all cases affected and to notify those who submitted each specific case,” she stated in her letter.

The State Employees’ Retirement System, meanwhile, has said none of its pension data was lost. SERS spokeswoman Pam Hile said the data loss affected was on a secondary system that provides members with snapshot-in-time pension benefit data such as benefit summary, annual statements and tax documents. Members who log on to the system since the data loss will find they must verify their identity upon signing on and create new four-digit PINs when logging in to their online account.

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