PLAINFIELD – The City Police department has regained access to an online state and national database that was blocked by a crippling cyberattack in March.
Deputy Chief Will Wolfburg said Monday that the department can now take advantage of the Connecticut On-Line Law Enforcement Communications Teleprocessingor PICK UP, system.
More than 180 local, state, and federal agencies feed information into that system, which allows police departments to retrieve information from a pair of state and two national databases: the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and International Network for the Exchange of Information on Justice and Public Security (NLETS).
Locally, police regularly use the COLLECT and NCIC systems to check the status of people and vehicles during the course of a call, Wolfburg said.
“We check a vehicle to see if it has been stolen and the status of a driver, such as if there are active warrants or protection orders issued for people in a vehicle,” he said. “Since the (cyber attack), we’ve had to rely on Putnam and the state police to do those types of searches for us, but now we’re back to being self-sufficient in that area.”
Putnam Police Chief Christopher Ferace said helping Plainfield didn’t involve a lot of extra work for his people.
“But it doesn’t matter if he did,” he said. “No matter how much work it takes, you do what you have to do to help a neighboring department.”
In mid-March, hackers gained access to police and city hall computer systems, encrypted files and held the data hostage as part of a lawsuit for $199,000 in bitcoin. The ransomware attack affected phone lines, laptops, record systems, and a host of other components.
Wolfburg said all of the department’s phone lines are backed up, as are its email system and officer body camera capabilities. There was concern that those cameras would become unusable as they filled up with images with no place to store them.
“We are still unable to take electronic fingerprints, which primarily affects our ability to make gun permit applications and hire employees, and our system of records is still inaccessible,” he said.
The department was about to switch to a new records system when the attack occurred. The raid and subsequent data encryption means years of reporting data and call and contact information, even if a resident has a history of mental health issues or is uncooperative with officers, it is essentially lost and will have to be re-added from scratch .
Wolfburg said detectives were also forced to review several open investigations as computer-stored statements, reports and other information collected during the normal course of a criminal investigation remain inaccessible.
“In some cases, that meant conducting new interviews and rewriting reports,” he said. “So instead of six open cases, that means there are now 12 to handle.”
Although no ransom is expected to be paid to the hackers, officials said not much more damage can be done in the future as the encrypted data was not exported.
Are other departments in the City of Plainfield recovering from the cyber attack?
First Councilman Kevin Cunningham has previously said it will cost about $300,000 to upgrade 65 affected computers, as well as add new security measures, including virus protection and dual authorization for email access, and conduct Internet security training sessions. for employees.
Cunningham said several outside departments — highways, sewer and animal control — were scheduled to be fully back online by the end of the day on Monday. He said a “to-do list” of various recovery tasks was rapidly shrinking at city hall.
“We have two outside companies that help us and the finance department, which had to fill out a lot of files, has been staying late and coming in on weekends to do that work,” he said. “We are still working to restore connectivity to the state network.”
Cunningham said an engineering firm the city works closely with had a large number of city maps on file that they were able to forward.
“We thought we had lost all of that,” he said.
Officials have not said how exactly the hackers infiltrated the municipal system.
“We don’t think the hackers knew they were attacking a city or a police department in the first place,” Wolfburg said. “They access hundreds of systems and don’t check in daily to see what’s being done in a particular place. They’re looking to make a quick buck and they want to know, yes or no, if they’re going to get paid.”
John Penney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (860) 857-6965