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East Windsor, N.J., Works to Restore System After Hack

The New Jersey township is still restoring operations after a hacker gained access to systems and began sending fraudulent emails to residents. The township is investigating whether any personal data was compromised.

Data breach
(TNS) — East Windsor officials confirmed Monday that the township experienced a cyber breach that wreaked havoc on its systems and is sending residents fraudulent emails — one week after officials said they first became aware of it.

A township release provided to NJ Advance Media said officials “became aware of suspicious activity related to the municipal building’s computer system,” and the activity has “impacted certain township operations.”

“Upon discovery, the township immediately took systems offline and launched an investigation into the nature and scope of the incident,” according to the release. “We are diligently working to regain full operational status.”

Township manager Jim Brady said the breach is preventing municipal building departments from using the computer system, so a temporary system has been implemented to maintain operations and services. Computers have been temporarily set up at other municipal locations, he said. It takes “slightly more time” to complete things now, he said.

Fraudulent emails are being sent to residents from an address designed to look like an official township email address, Brady said.

“THESE EMAILS ARE NOT OFFICIAL EMAILS,” Brady wrote in an emailed response to NJ Advance Media. “Residents are advised to review and scrutinize all emails that appear to come from an East Windsor Township email address, and NOT to click on or open any attachments or links contained in the email.”

Township officials are investigating if residents’ personal info has been compromised, and while there’s no evidence of that now, “as the investigation is ongoing this position may change,” Brady said.

East Windsor officials notified the following entities of the breach: the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the New Jersey State Police, the United States Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

Mayor Janice Mironov did not respond to multiple requests for comment. State police redirected questions to East Windsor officials.

“Even if a breach had occurred, we are not at liberty to confirm the identity of victims,” Mario Prato, director of communications for the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said. She referred further questions to the township.

Police Chief Jim Geary sent the release directing further questions to the township manager.

According to the release, the township is working with “cybersecurity specialists” to “securely remediate the activity” and restore operations. The specialists are monitoring the township’s systems 24/7, it said. The township is dedicating significant internal resources to the process, but the amount of funding needed to complete the work is unknown, Brady said.

He declined to name the cybersecurity specialists working on the breach, citing security reasons, but said they’re from a “leading cybersecurity firm.” The township was connected to the firm through its insurance company.

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