Clark County websites down due to computer virus

Infection could have spread to users

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: March 6, 2013, 8:04 PM

 

If you accessed Clark County’s website between 11 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, you may have caught a computer virus from the site.

The keywords here are “may have,” because the county doesn’t know exactly what it’s dealing with. Neither does Symantec, the county’s antivirus software provider.

Because of the uncertainty, the county’s information technology workers couldn’t estimate Wednesday how long the computer network would be infected, or how it would impair county employees’ job functions or public access to vital county records. More information should be known this morning.

According to Jim Hominiuk, the county’s director of application services, the virus that infected the county’s system is of a new breed. The type of virus, and the destruction it may cause, is still unknown.

For that reason, it’s possible, but not certain, that people who accessed the county’s website could have picked up the bug.

“It was not in Symantec’s definitions,” Hominiuk said, adding that a security response team from the antivirus company is currently working on the issue.

If users of the county website did contract the virus, it might not be identified by their antivirus software, as it is so new. But again, the county doesn’t know for sure.

“There is a chance that antivirus won’t catch it,” Hominiuk said. “It’s looking kind of serious right now.”

What the county does know at this time is that at 9:13 a.m., a county computer became infected with the virus. The suspected cause of infection is from a USB device that was plugged into a computer somewhere on the county’s network.

The virus eventually infected a content management system that manages articles on the county’s website. The county’s information technology department believes when the system ran a scheduled update, it uploaded the virus to the public site.

The virus was discovered later in the day, and commissioners were interrupted during their weekly board time meeting to be told of the news. Commissioners immediately granted the county staff’s request to shut down the website.

Hominiuk said Symantec has informed the county that the issue may take as long as 48 hours to resolve.

Hominiuk also said there is some indication that the virus is attempting to redirect infected users to pornography, but added that he wasn’t sure.

The county currently has no further information on the matter, but intends to update the public with information as it becomes available.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov ; erik.hidle@columbian.com.