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Cyber Attack Interrupts Services in Anson County, N.C.

After a May 1 malware attack, Anson County, N.C., lost several services, including email and telephone. The county, however, doesn't believe any employee or citizen data was affected.

Cyber attack
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(TNS) — The Anson County government experienced a cyber attack over the first weekend of May, which turned out to be more serious than initially thought.

The most recent update from the county stated that there does not appear to be any employee or citizen personal data compromised from the malware attack, but it did however limit some county services, including Human Resources, GIS Mapping, Public Health Clinical Services, telephone and email. Most of these services are estimated to return in one to two weeks, but there is no timetable for telephone service and the GIS Mapping tool, according to the government's Facebook update.

Law enforcement and EMS still remains operational as well as property tax collections, vehicle tag renewals, transfers and temporary tags, Veteran's Service Office, deeds recording, library and COVID-19 vaccines. The 911 Center is operational, but there is no "text to 911" function available. Building permits will be issued manually.

In the meantime, the county set up department cell phones in order to communicate with citizens.
The county is working with multiple local, state and federal agencies, including Chatham and Lee Counties, N.C. Emergency Management, DIT, SBI, FBI and the National Guard, to investigate this situation further and recover any lost data.

"Anson County is committed to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of all its residents and employees," the county posted on its official Facebook page. "This commitment extends to notifying our residents, current and former if we the security or privacy of their information may have been compromised."

THE INVESTIGATION


On May 4, the county reported a cyber intrusion on "non-critical operating systems" had occurred on the first of May, later updating the community that it was a malware attack. This malware attack is a common cyber attack in which the hacker executes unauthorized actions on the victim's system.

The initial internal investigation, led by a computer forensics team, found that the hacker did not enter the network to disrupt operations, according to an update from the government Facebook page. This conclusion remains the county's assessment of the situation as of Monday, May 10.

"There was no evidence of unauthorized release of any data," read a May 5 update. "Therefore, at this time, we feel confident that any personal data given to or maintained by Anson County has not been compromised by this cyber incident."

Another update came on May 6, in which the county stated that a significant number of internal servers, impacting communications like phone, email and Internet, had been compromised. The attack did not impact Atrium Health Anson, Anson County Schools, the Town of Wadesboro or the Anson County Chamber of Commerce.

Although the investigators believe there was no unauthorized release of data, the government still encourages residents to take extra precaution against fraud. Individuals can do this by adding an alert on their credit files, monitor bank statements and credit card bills for any unusual activity. If you suspect any unusual activity, citizens should notify the entity in which the account is maintained and report it to law enforcement, including the N.C. Attorney General at 877-566-7226 and the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Division.

The county's IT manager could not be reached for comment by press time.

"As the county recovers from this attack, more information on services will be forthcoming, but recovery will take several months," an update said. "We ask for your patience as the county and its partners work to restore services to the public and improve its overall IT security posture."

©2021 the Richmond County Daily Journal, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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