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September 25, 2023

County: Employees remain without email

County employees remain without email after a virus infected the government’s network Aug. 18.

According to a statement released by the county Tuesday evening:

On August 18, after observing unusual activity on the county network, the San Benito County Information Technologies Department (IT) made the decision to suspend all county systems until an investigation into the cause and associated effects of said activity could be completed. IT soon discovered that a malware virus had in fact infected multiple systems and had begun to spread to other county IT infrastructure. At this time, following an initial investigation by San Benito IT and a cyber security consulting firm, there is no evidence that personal data, employee information or public related material, were compromised and personnel continue to work diligently to bring all county systems back online.

In the meantime, the County continues to function, albeit with less technology based tools than usual. After identifying critical systems that needed to be operational to maintain public safety, public administration, and other essential public services, IT was able to quickly give departments the functionality needed to perform those necessary tasks. Other departments have been able to utilize cloud based systems or State systems that operate free of the County network; therefore, these departments noticed very little or no impact to the services they provide. For all remaining functions, departments have implemented “pen & paper” techniques to continue fulfilling responsibilities.

Following an initial investigation, IT believes that this situation arose from a phishing email that successfully made it past anti-virus software and firewalls. Once opened, the virus spread throughout the system relatively unchecked until IT made the decision to cease county network activity. IT has been working with a consultant to increase efficiencies and work in an attempt to bring all systems back online as soon as possible, however at this time many workstations remain inoperable waiting for further tools and applications.

We would like the public to be aware that all County personnel do not currently have access to their emails. If you need assistance, please visit the office during business hours, call, fax, or use the postal service to submit documents to County offices. Phone numbers and addresses for County departments can be found by visiting cosb.us/county-departments/

San Benito County understands the frustration the public may feel over this incident and appreciates everyone’s patience while we work through it. While we are working as quickly and efficiently as we can to get all systems back online, we are being extremely cautious as to avoid any kind of re-infection that may delay restoration of services. Once everything is back online, IT will conduct an in depth investigation into the cause of the virus and ensure the necessary protections are in place to avoid any similar events in the future.