N.H. Computer Virus Draws Attention of U.S. Secret Service

A virus infected computers in Stafford County and prompted IT personnel to shut down the network June 28. Authorities are looking into the cyberattack, but are not giving many details due to the ongoing nature of the case.

by Brian Early, Foster's Daily Democrat / July 11, 2019
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(TNS) — The U.S. Secret Service is aiding the Strafford County Sheriff's Office in a criminal investigation into the computer virus that has challenged some county departments, according to the Sheriff's Office.

To what extent the Secret Service is involved in the investigation and what authorities are investigating is not clear by comments from officials.

Sheriff Capt. Paul Callaghan declined to go into details about what they are investigating, except to say it's a "computer forensic investigation." He said the county reached out to the Secret Service for technical service.

As to what virus had infected the county computers on June 28, Callaghan declined to say. "I'm not going to answer that because it's an ongoing investigation," he said.

The county's information technology team shut down its network on June 28 and had been working to restore systems since, which County Administrator Ray Bower said is happening one computer at a time.

Bower said there have been no demands made for cash, such as in a ransomware virus, where the virus encrypts data on hard drives until a ransom is paid, often demanded in a digital currency like bitcoin. He said the county is about 95 percent recovered from the depth of the infection. "There was no breach of documents. Just about everybody got their stuff back," he said.

Bower said he expects to have a full public briefing on the virus Strafford County commissioners meeting later this month.

Strafford County Attorney Tom Velardi said his department's computers are about 80-90 percent fixed. His computer system was restored and he's been able to retrieve documents as of late Monday or early Tuesday. Other than being overdue to responding to emails he hadn't responded to, the computer shutdown was more of a nuisance. Velardi said he did not have to seek deadline extensions for any of his active cases, though he got close to those deadlines.

"It's been a mild to moderate inconvenience," he said.

Velardi, who celebrated 20 years with the attorney's office last month, said the computer shutdown reminded him of when he first started in June 1999, where the attorneys used their phones for much of their external communication because they still used typewriters. He's seen in the last two weeks many of his attorneys returning to the phones because the email was down.

"It's been a throwback week," he said.

©2019 the Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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