Virus In Portsmouth City Computers Cost $156K To Eradicate

Elizabeth Dinan [email protected] @DinanElizabeth

PORTSMOUTH A virus that infected the city-wide computer system is "under control" and the total cost of a related insurance claim is $156,813, said Deputy City Manager Nancy Colbert Puff.

The municipal computer problems began March 14 and the virus was identified as a Trojan horse malware named Emotet. City officials said the malware was used to send imposter emails, that falsely appeared to be from city officials, in an effort to solicit money from local recipients.

Colbert Puff said Thursday the insurance claim includes the city's cost for hardware, software and labor during the months since the virus was discovered. Since then, she said, "We have greatly enhanced our security, with multiple layers of virus protection on endpoints and servers, and will continue to more effectively segregate our network to isolate the impact (and) best prevent any future viruses from spreading."

On Friday, City Attorney Robert Sullivan reported he had not received a Rockingham County Superior Court judge's order the court office reported had been emailed to him hours earlier. Colbert Puff said that problem was not virus-related. She explained the citys security software "prevents thousands of phishing emails from reaching their intended targets on a daily basis and occasionally quarantines email that should go through to recipients."

"If someone is expecting an email that has not been received, it is a typical response to have IT check the quarantined files for the email and retrieve it," she said. "In this instance, the very large file size of the attachment caused it to be caught."

Colbert Puff previously warned that anyone who receives an email that seems to be from the city, but comes from the address [email protected], should delete it. The content of the emails gives recipients the impression that they need to pay a city invoice and instructs them to open a link for details, she said. The malware goes after electronic address books and collects email addresses, which it then uses to send the phony emails, according to Colbert Puff.

Its trying to get money, said the deputy city manager, who assured residents the city uses third-party providers for billing, so all that is safe. That includes payments for taxes, water and sewer bills, as well as dog licensing, she said.

The city does not store any information from the public on the network, she said. To reiterate, city staff do not send out invoices by email. While our names are being used, the actual email addresses are not from the city and are not sent from the city servers. If it doesnt look right, dont open it.

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