Malware infects state computers; data said secure

Posted: January 22, 2015 at 1 a.m.

The Arkansas Department of Information Systems blocked all .zip files from the state's email system after a malware attack was identified.

The department sent out notice over email and social media about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Department spokesman Janet Wilson said only a fraction of the more than 15,000 computers on the state's computer network were affected.

"There were less than 50 machines that were actually infected," she said. "We have multiple layers of defensive mechanisms. Some of them are malicious traffic filters and there are other measures as well. Those filters caught the malware attack. We ran a test on the computers in the network, and those 50 were identified quickly and taken off of the state network and replaced."

Wilson said the computers were in different agencies across state government. She also said that there was no data breach or information lost due to the attack.

Malware is short for malicious software, which is transmitted often via email in hidden or misleading attachments. The software is designed to disrupt computer operations or gain access to private computer networks and personal information.

The department blocked all computer files with the extension .zip, which are larger files that have been compressed so that they can be sent over email. The note that was sent to employees didn't contain a timeline for when the blocked files would be allowed again.

"This is the only remedy that is currently available to halt the spread of the infected files across the state network. We apologize for any inconvenience and we will restore the delivery of these files as soon as it is safe to do so," department officials in the Arkansas Cyber Security Office wrote.

Department of Finance and Administration officials recommended in December that 49 positions be cut from the Information Systems Department budget and another two dozen positions be moved to other departments to eliminate overlap and modernize operations. The Joint Budget Committee voted down the proposal in favor of waiting to decide until after the completion of a final audit report of the agency's operations and billing.

The audit report recommended a change in the department's billing methods to avert federal intervention.

The Information Systems Department has been criticized in recent years over the cost of the services -- including Internet access, phone systems and other information technology services -- that it provides to other departments. The Information Systems Department's previous billing problems cost Arkansas $44 million in 2006, after the state settled a lawsuit with the federal government.

Several legislators said during a Technology Committee hearing in December they were nervous about the idea of reducing staff at the Information Systems Department given recent Internet attacks and hacking incidents including the Sony email hack centered on the movie The Interview late last year.

NW News on 01/22/2015