Orange hacked

Town had no anti-virus protection or firewall

ORANGE — With diminishing state revenues and increasing costs in recent years, officials have had to cut corners whenever possible to balance the budget and preserve necessary services. But now that the town’s computers have been breached for the second time in a little over a year, they are learning that computer security is essential, not auxiliary, to the town’s operation.

Last spring, Town Hall computers were hacked, resulting in the loss of a significant amount of financial data. And earlier this month, town computers were hacked again and infected with a virus.

Town Administrator Diana Schindler called the police and got a no-nonsense response from Chief Robert Haigh. “I told her to get someone in here to fix the computers or shut them down.”

“We couldn’t wait another day,” Schindler agreed. She began searching immediately for a company that could properly secure town computers

Schindler found a regional IT service contract through the Hampshire Council of Governments that provided a cost-effective way for the town to access a full team of IT professionals with a broad range of expertise.

After assessing the security of town computers, the firm quickly set up a firewall and installed antivirus software.

While no data was lost in this latest incident, the town’s financial team put in many additional hours re-entering information after losing massive amounts of budgetary data last spring.

Haigh said he took “a more proactive stance this last incident because I didn’t want to take the chance again that we would lose everything.”

The Orange Police Department worked with the state police in the investigation of the computer breach last year. The attorney general is currently investigating that case.

Haigh said the most recent incident has made him realize just how poorly protected the town computers have been. He said that due to budget problems of recent years, computer security has “been overlooked” until now.

Haigh said it is possible that both security attacks were the result of random hacking rather than a more concerted effort to gain access to personal information. “It could be anyone from China or anywhere doing this.”

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