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How a Cyberattack Plunged a Long Island County Into the 1990s


Almost every corner of county government has had to pivot, in ways both cumbersome and retro.

Title searchers examine mortgage and title records manually at the Suffolk County, NY, clerk’s office, more than two months after a ransomware cyberattack hijacked the county’s online services.

Credit: Johnny Milano/The New York Times

Emergency dispatchers taking down 911 calls by hand, unable to use their geolocation technology for callers. Police officers radioing in crime scene details, rather than emailing reports to headquarters. Office workers resorting to fax machines.

For weeks this fall, the government of Suffolk County was plunged back into the 1990s after a malicious ransomware attack forced it largely offline. A frantic push to counter the threat hobbled the county, as officials disabled email for all 10,000 civil service workers and scrubbed infected hardware, seeking to stem fallout from compromised computer systems.

More than two months after the attack, some of the gears that run much of Long Island are still stubbornly mired in a cybermorass. It is a situation that experts say not only reveals the county's vulnerability but also presents an ominous warning for a nation unprepared for crippling online threats.

From The New York Times
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