SOUTH PARIS — The Oxford County commissioners learned Tuesday that the county dodged a bullet from a probable computer-system hacker.

“We’re still monitoring and I think we’ll always be on alert,” Register of Deeds Patricia Shearman told commissioners about a hacking attempt on county computers that began March 3.

Shearman emphasized that another system which records property details stands alone and has no Internet connection — precisely for protection from cyberattacks.

“I had a conference call with (the county’s computer consultant) the other day,” Deputy County Administrator Judy Haas told the commissioners. “They are going to give us a report of what went on, and we’re hoping to have a department head meeting to discuss this.”

Haas said employees became alarmed when the county website was not operating properly.

They “were able to pull the network connections quickly when they knew that something was wrong,” she said. “So everyone is aware, if they need to pull that network connection, where it is. Speed was of the essence for that.”


“A good drill, then,” Commissioner David Duguay said.

There have been a number of cyberattacks on municipal computer systems recently.

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that the city of Naperville, Ill., spent more than $750,000 in fixes after computer hackers attacked their system in 2012.

ABC News reported in April 2015 that some police departments in Maine had been forced to make extortion payments to have their computer files unencrypted by hackers using “ransomware.” Apparently small municipal government offices that cannot afford elaborate firewall protection are a favorite target for crimes of cyberextortion.

A common technique is to hack into a system and then encrypt files on a computer or server’s hard drive. The criminal then sells the victim the needed code to unencrypt the hard drive as a “ransom” payment in order to make the system usable again.

There was a theory discussed by the commissioners that a public “drop box” site that is used to transfer large data files may have been the entry method for the hack attempt at Oxford County, but the actual pathway has not yet been determined, according to Haas.


A contractor is inspecting the Oxford County systems for possible damage, Haas said.

In other business:

• The commissioners learned from Deputy Director of Communications Geff Inman that some tow truck business operators are complaining that the system for dispatching wreckers to traffic accidents is unfair and picks favorite providers. The commissioners said they would study the issue.

• Administrator Scott Cole reported on the Oxford County lockup’s position in the statewide county jail-funding crisis. “Oxford County is capped at a level of taxation that is insufficient to both operate this facility here, and also meet obligations for boarding inmates at other counties,” Cole said. “We do enjoy one of the lowest jail tax rates in the state.”

• Cole said the airport auction of abandoned hangar contents on March 12 raised about $27,000. “The airport remains open,” Cole said. “It remains FAA-compliant. It’s bare-bones, but that’s OK. We’re meeting standards all around.”

• Oxford County Sheriff Chief Deputy Hart Daley discussed contingency plans if the county were to assume police services for the town of Paris. He said there is more usable police equipment in Paris than when the county contracted with Bethel for service. However the Paris police vehicles would need additional safety equipment. Daley also discussed pay and leave issues, and a proposal to add a police dog to the department.

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