ROXBURY, NJ – A virus infected a number of computers used by township employees in late April, but the intrusion did not appear to expose any confidential information, said the township manager.
The matter is likely to be discussed at tonight’s meeting of the Roxbury Mayor and Council, said Roxbury Councilman Fred Hall. He said he wants to know what measures the township was taking to prevent the incident and why they seemingly failed.
Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd said the township uses Malwarebytes, a program designed to find and remove malware, ransomware and other threats. He did not say whether the town was using a paid or free version of the software.
Shepherd described the intrusion as being from a “virus.” The term “malware” is used to describe all types of unwanted code, including viruses.
“Some of the township’s computers were infected with a computer virus,” Shepherd said in an email. “Not all of the individual computers were impacted, but the ones that were not impacted appeared to be random.”
A Weekend Attack
The incident took place over the weekend of April 27 and April 28. The manager said he learned about the problem on Monday, April 29.
“We became aware on Monday morning when employees returned to work from the weekend,” he said. “Our IT director, along with a private vendor we contract with, needed to restore our data from the backup. They also needed to reload software on individual personal computers that were infected.”
Shepherd said most employees were “back up and running” by the next day. “IT finished up with the majority of the restoration on Wednesday,” he said. “Some employees will still need to personalize their PCs but that does not impact our overall operations.”
The manager noted the Roxbury Police Department’s computer system was not affected because “it is separate and distinct from the township’s system.”
Roxbury Not Alone
He said the IT staff told him the type of virus attack that hit Roxbury “has been prevalent recently” in New Jersey municipal governments. “We are still assessing the origin of the virus,” Shepherd added. He said he was not sure any “specific employee action,” such as clicking on a link or opening a file, caused the infection.
Asked whether the virus came in the form of so-called “ransomware,” in which the perpetrator sought money, Shepherd said it was possible. “It might have been in one of the files,” he said. “We had no intention of paying, so we did not open the infected files.”
Shepherd said people who accessed the township’s website or other online offerings were not in danger of having their computers compromised.
It appears the virus infection’s main impact was to employee productivity. “It slowed us down,” Shepherd said. “It also made it more difficult for citizens to communicate with us - and us with them - by electronic means that we are used to.”
The manager said the matter did reveal “how much we rely on our computer network to conduct business” at town hall. “While many of us were still able to utilize our e-mail throughout this event, I think we collectively spent more time on the telephone and using pen and paper (old school),” Shepherd said.
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