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Cyberattack on Capital Region 911 concerns local officials

A cyberattack that disrupted 911 dispatching in the Capital Region did not hit counties in northeastern New York, but it gave them pause.

“It’s serious business, that’s for sure,” Essex County Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish said Wednesday.

“When you shut down a 911 facility, there’s not a lot of options left for the people,” Franklin County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost said.

Clinton and Hamilton County emergency services directors also said their services were not affected.

It was around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night that the ransomware attack took hold of the CAD (computer aided dispatch) system shared by Albany, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties, according to the Albany Times Union. Ransomware shuts down a system and holds it hostage until money is paid to whoever orchestrated the attack. Such attacks have done great damage in recent months to school districts and hospital systems, including the University of Vermont Health Network, St. Lawrence Health System and Samaritan Health in Watertown. They often leave staff forced to resort to paper records while their computer systems are shut down.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple Sr. told the Times Union that staff worked through the night to minimize the damage, restoring services and rebuilding much of the damaged system from backups. He said 911 calls were not affected but that the attackers obtained some data. Officials were not sure how it happened, the newspaper said.

Jaquish said that as a precaution, his Essex County department temporarily stopped updates to its CAD system, because that is how ransomware gets in. Hamilton County Emergency Services Director Don Purdy II explained that a CAD system is closed off from the internet except for when it is updated.

“Our 911 center does not do any automatic updates,” he said. “Any updates we do while talking to the vendor for our CAD program … with them vetting it.”

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