WOOSTER — The computer network for the Wooster-Ashland Regional Council of Governments was hacked, and more than 200,000 records were compromised.
Wooster Law Director Linda Applebaum issued a news release Saturday afternoon stating the breach of the computer system happened Wednesday. The news release appeared as an image on the city of Wooster’s Facebook page and the city’s website. The FBI informed WARCOG officials about the hack, which happened May 26. It is a federal crime, Applebaum stated, and the council of governments is cooperating with the FBI’s investigation.
As for what information was compromised, a Wooster representative wrote on Facebook, “The WARCOG is working closely with the FBI criminal investigation unit to determine the information that was compromised. We’ll have more on this in the days ahead as more information becomes available to us.”
“We regret that this incident occurred,” Applebaum stated. The council of governments will provide free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to people affected by the hacking. “We are reaching out to everyone whose records were involved in this breach to inform them of the steps they can take to activate these services, and we encourage them to do so,” she added.
When asked on Facebook how those affected are being contacted, the inquirer was told, “More information will be available next week as the WARCOG and the authorities involved compile the exact number of people who were impacted by this breach. As this information is made available to us, we will be sure to communicate this on our website and all of our social media outlets as soon as possible.”
WARCOG officials are conducting a review of the organization’s network protocols, policies and procedures to reduce the risk of an another attack.
WARCOG provides dispatching for Wooster, Ashland, Orrville and Kidron.
There are two other dispatch centers in Wayne County: one in the Justice Center, the other in Rittman.
The one located in the Justice Center has not had any attacks, Director Ron McCollum said.
Joe Villegas, Wayne County’s Emergency Management Agency director, who also is involved with the Justice Center’s computer network, said he cannot recall the system being hacked, either. There was a ransomware attack a few years ago, but the county was able to recover the information without having to make any payments. There have been virus and malware attacks, “but you deal with it and fix it,” Villegas said.
Rittman City Manager Larry Boggs said his city’s system has not been breached. About a month ago, there was a concern about a potential virus attack but the city’s IT worker upgraded software and nothing happened.
“I don’t think anything is hack-proof,” Boggs said. He’s been told there have been a number of attempts to breach the system, but none has made it through.
Applebaum suggests anyone wanting more information contact her at 330-263-5248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A message seeking comment from the city was not returned by early Saturday evening.