Cyber incident leaves Chatham government without network, email access

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At 7:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Chatham County government released an email statement saying it had identified a cyber incident that left its network, office phones and email “inoperable for an undetermined amount of time.”

That email was sent from a new email address, pio@chathameoc.com, as the county still did not have access to its email server. A second email notice was sent on Thursday early afternoon containing the same information.

Chatham County immediately notified authorities of the incident, Chatham County Manager Dan LaMontagne said in the email, and is continuing to work toward identifying the extent of the problem.

“Chatham County 911 communications were not impacted and continue to operate without issue. Chatham County early voting also was not affected in this incident,” LaMontagne said. “We are working with law enforcement and support agencies so we can recover from this incident as soon as possible. Our priority is to restore our systems in a secure manner and maintain the provision of critical services.

By Friday afternoon, the county still did not have access to its network, phone or email but Public Information Officer Kara Dudley said the county is working to set up more temporary emails with the "@chathameoc.com" domain for employees in the meantime. Dudley told the News + Record that the Board of Commissioners would still host their regular session meeting on Monday, Nov. 2, but didn't have any details yet about how the breach would impact the meeting.

“The cyber incident that was discovered on October 28th that affected Chatham County government's network is still under investigation," Dudley said in an email message Friday evening.

In that message, Dudley said Chatham County’s Management and Information Systems (MIS) Department was working to restore the affected systems, along with federal, state and local partners.

"A timeline has not been established for full service restoration at this point. Updates on the restoration of services/systems will continue to be provided as progress is made," she wrote. "We are working around the clock to restore workstations in county departments."

In addition to the temporary emails being established for county employees, Dudley said phone numbers are also being set up. She encouraged community members to monitor the county's website and their social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) for updates.

"Everyone’s patience is greatly appreciated as we understand there have been some inconveniences and delays in service. Thank you for your continued support as we continue to work through this situation," Dudley said.

At the time of publication the county still did not know the source of the cyber breach.

This is a developing story. This article and our Facebook page will be updated as more information becomes available.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com.

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