Bladen County data, systems targeted by ‘cybercriminal attack’, commissioner says it could take months to recover

“We can confirm the criminals were able to access some of the County’s data.”
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 5:14 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 7:23 AM EST
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BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Bladen County announced on Monday, Nov. 13, that it has been victimized by a “cybercriminal attack” that was able to access data stored by the county.

“Last week, we discovered irregularities in our systems. Bladen County IT staff immediately retained the services of the North Carolina Joint Cybersecurity Task Force, a team of outside experts from the NC National Guard, the NCLGISA Cybersecurity Strike Team, NC Emergency Management, and NC Department of IT, to launch a forensic investigation and help secure our servers,” the county announcement states.

According to Bladen County, its emergency services have been fully operational throughout the incident as the county successfully followed its emergency preparedness plans.

“Based on the preliminary investigation, the malicious activity performed by cybercriminals on our county network was designed to access our systems and the data contained within those systems,” the release explains. “We can confirm the criminals were able to access some of the County’s data.”

Bladen County Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson tells WECT that some systems have to be completely rebuilt, like an email server. He says that could take about two months. Other departments are slowly getting back up and running on laptops this week.

It’s still unclear which departments are directly impacted by this cyberattack.

Bladen County government operations are functioning under normal hours, but with limited capacity as some of its systems are inaccessible. As of Nov. 13, the county says that its IT professionals and the cybersecurity experts assisting them are “making incredible progress” in returning the county’s systems back to normal.

“Most of the county systems that rely on internal servers or access to the Internet will be impacted, but county staff has contingency plans for utilizing alternative methods to transact public business,” the announcement adds. “No systems relating to state or other levels of government appear to have been impacted.

“While more information will be confirmed in the coming days, understand that our priority is the safety and security of the Bladen County community. We are committed to addressing the situation quickly and responsibly, by collaborating with legal counsel, technical experts, and cyber-security professionals. We appreciate your patience as we work to resolve this issue.”

WECT has reached out to county officials for more details.