On or about Sept. 8, Suffolk County officials determined that the county’s systems had been affected by a cyberattack. The attack has disrupted legislator emails, postponed the date of civil service examinations and forced the county to hire experts to help.
On Sept. 13, Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone held a press conference during which he said that the county experienced a “cyber intrusion” and that malware was detected and had “the hallmarks of ransomware.”
The issue affected county emails as well as websites, so the county created a temporary landing page that housed information for residents. During the press conference, Bellone stressed that 9-11 was still operational, along with 3-11, and that parks remained open to the public.
According to Suffolk County Legis. Steve Flotteron, the emails are patched up and the legislators can now receive information, but Suffolk County Legis. Dominick Thorne said that he encouraged his constituents to call his office and any office within the county rather than emailing.
“We were hacked; it’s very serious,” Thorne said. “Homeland and the FBI are looking into it.”
On the county landing page, a statement reads: “While the cyber assessment remains ongoing, we believe that the threat actors accessed and/or acquired certain personal information from one or more county agency servers. The county promptly hired multiple cybersecurity firms to conduct an examination to protect employees and residents as well as restore online services.”
The statement continued to state that the county will notify any affected individuals and anyone affected will be offered free identity theft protection services.
The attack also affected the upcoming Suffolk County Civil Service examinations that were scheduled for Oct. 1. The exams have been postponed with no date set. The county said that candidates will be notified of any reschedule dates. In addition, news outlets such as the Long Island Advance, Islip Bulletin and Suffolk County News have been unable to look up police incidents and write out police blotters.
Michael Balboni, the president of Redland Strategies, a company brought on by the county to assist them, noted that there has been an uptick in the number of ransomware attacks in recent years. He said the county must use the old adage, “measure twice, cut once,” when looking to restore their cybersecurity enterprises. Restoration of the county’s information will be meticulous, as to make sure that no attacks that could pop up again. Flotteron said he expects everything to reopen up in stages as they are cleaned and fixed.
“If anything, I think it shows us that we’re becoming too reliant on some things in this computer cloud that people can grab onto and cause havoc,” Flotteron said of the attack’s effect.
How to protect yourself
The county released steps residents can take to keep their information safe as well as what to do if they believe their information has been compromised.
The county noted that residents should regularly review account statements and periodically obtain their credit report. If anything looks suspicious, call the credit reporting agency listed in the report or report the matter to law enforcement. Fraud alerts should be placed on credit files so that users are alerted if anything is amiss. Residents can also put a security freeze on their credit report that prevents most potential creditors from viewing credit reports and restricts the opening of unauthorized accounts. For more information on how to place a security freeze on a credit report visit https://dos.nysits.acsitefactory.com/consumer-protection.
The current Suffolk County landing page can be visited at suffolkcountyny.gov.
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