Warren County staff along with state and federal law enforcement agencies continue to investigate last month’s “intrusion” into the local data servers.
Interim County Administrator Edwin Daley gave an update on the situation at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday. The county is providing new laptop computers to employees and restoring their email disabled during the investigation.
Daley has not called the incident a “hack” but he has said an “intruder” entered the county’s servers and viewed the data. Daley said days after the incident that it did not appear that the intruder stole or damaged county information.
But the county’s response to the intrusion apparently drew criticism from the public. Board Chairwoman Cheryl L. Cullers read a statement in which she defended the county’s response.
“I have read and heard many comments, concerns and accusations on social media and in the public questioning our handling and transparency regarding this incident,” Cullers said. “I can assure you we are and will continue to address this incident in cooperation with and according to guidelines and instructions of the cybersecurity law enforcement and legal experts that have spent many long hours working with us on this incident.
“We will not jeopardize the investigation into this incident to appease those that feel like they are entitled to information on demand,” Cullers said.
The chairwoman went on to state: “I can assure you that I stand by my pledge to my community to be honest, transparent and accountable as a county supervisor. When we have complete and accurate information and have been assured by the investigation and legal teams, we can share this information with the citizens of Warren County, we will gladly do so.”
In addition to her statement, Cullers said she wants supervisors to consider adopting a resolution at their April 19 meeting that would recognize the efforts of the people who worked to restore the county’s information technology infrastructure. Cullers said people from outside the county volunteered their time to help. Warren County staff worked seven days a week for about three weeks on the matter, Cullers said.
“So a lot of time has gone into this and a lot of hard work and we’re making progress,” Cullers said. “We’re almost there.”
Approximately 20 county staff and information technology experts converged on the government center on March 12 in response to the intrusion into the servers, Daley told the board. More people came to the county’s aid the following weekend. Staff from the county school system and from Frederick County assisted in the effort, he said.
Earlier in her statement, Cullers, who represents the South River Magisterial District, spoke about the incident and recounted how county staff responded.
“As you know, Warren County, like many other localities around the country, was the victim of a cybersecurity incident in March,” Cullers stated. “After learning of the incident, Warren County staff quickly took action to contain the threat, secure the systems and to notify the Board of Supervisors.”
County staff also notified and began working with the FBI Cyber Crimes Division and the Virginia State Police High Tech Crimes Division, Cullers said. Staff notified the county’s cyber insurance provider which, in turn, engaged cybersecurity lawyers and forensic teams to investigate the incident, Cullers added.
“Warren County staff have been hard at work restoring services to a secure and safe environment, including moving a number of services into the cloud,” Cullers read. “While we are eager to resume operations, we need to do so in the most prudent way possible.
“Therefore, we have taken the time to build out our IT infrastructure and improve our security posture,” Cullers went on to read.
The county continues to work with law enforcement and legal teams throughout the ongoing investigation, Cullers said.