Call 12 for Action

Malware attacks hundreds of RI computers; no personal data breached

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Rhode Island's Chief Digital officer says hundreds of state computers were infected with malware.

"In this case, we believe this could be through a generic phishing attack, clicking on a link in an email, just an external site which is clicked," Bijay Kumar, the chief digital officer, explained to Call 12 for Action. "We did some proactive upgrades and have since mitigated the issue."

Malware was discovered on computers at three state agencies, including the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH). 

Kumar said out of the state's 10,000 devices, fewer than 400 were affected by malware.

Malware is any virus, spyware or other unwanted software that is installed on a computer or device without consent, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Malware can cause devices to crash, monitor and control online activity, and make computers vulnerable to other viruses. 

Kumar said the state realized it had a problem with malware on Thursday night.

"Some hardware devices crashed in the agencies," Kumar said. "These are smaller PCs with lower processing power. That was the only impact we saw."

"At this point, we can safely say there has been no data breaches, no data compromised. We will continue to monitor for any further issues as well," he added. 

The Emergency Management Agency (EMA), Rhode Island State Police and National Guard were notified of the issue.

"We take security very seriously, so we always like to err on the safer side of security so we talked to the National Guard, state police, as well as EMA to make sure we don't leave any stone unturned to keep our system secure," Kumar said.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.


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