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Curran says 11-day email, computer outage in Oyster Bay is 'unacceptable'

Gov. Kathy Hochul said the three agencies that

Gov. Kathy Hochul said the three agencies that head up New York State's cybersecurity response team have not heard from Oyster Bay officials about the town's computer and email outage. Credit: Newsday/Ted Phillips

Oyster Bay’s computer outage entered its 11th day on Monday as emails to town officials continued to bounce back to the senders, a situation Nassau County Executive Laura Curran called "unacceptable."

Town spokesman Brian Nevin wrote in a text message Monday afternoon that "Email is being restored gradually today."

Nevin did not respond to questions about what caused the problems or when all systems would be restored.

"The system was shut down as a precaution, however, problems appear to be limited solely to e-mail," Nevin wrote. "There is currently no indication of unauthorized access to/or the release of information."

The town shut down computer and email systems on Dec. 3 and quickly restored the tax receiver’s systems. Curran said in a statement Monday that Oyster Bay residents deserve better.

"The Town of Oyster Bay’s prolonged computer outage — not even mentioned on their website — is unacceptable and must be addressed immediately," Curran said. "The residents and businesses that have been unable to receive critical services deserve better and should be reimbursed for this unnecessary 11-day halt of basic government functions."

Town officials have not announced the cause of the problems, but last week said Inspector General Brian Noone, who handles cybersecurity issues, was involved in the restoration. Nevin said last week that the town had expected full restoration by the weekend, but emails continued to bounce back on Saturday and Sunday.

The three agencies that head up New York State’s cybersecurity response team — the Office of Information Technology Services; the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services; and the New York State Police — have not been notified by Oyster Bay of the problem.

"They have not received any requests from this town for any help," Ben DeLaMater, spokesman for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, said Monday. "A lot of times towns can handle cybersecurity issues on their own … but we’re also there to help."

The New York State Comptroller’s Office audits the IT security of local governments and schools, but a spokeswoman for the office wrote Monday that one has not been conducted on Oyster Bay, nor has an audit been scheduled.

On Friday, a spokesman for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an agency within the federal Department of Homeland Security, referred questions to Oyster Bay and added in an email that "there is no federal reporting requirement for municipalities" for cyberattacks.

Oyster Bay Democrats called Monday for the town’s computer systems to be audited.

"The Town’s incompetence has potentially exposed residents’ private information to scammers and hackers," Oyster Bay Democratic leader David Mejias said in a statement. "A formal audit by the NYS Comptroller’s office is imperative."

In response to Mejia, Nevin said in a text message, "Unlike major financial institutions which exposed personal information, Town officials shut down the system as a precautionary measure to protect all data and prevent a breach."

The town has faced computer problems in the past. Oyster Bay officials blamed the nearly yearlong delay of the town’s 2014 audited financial results on the faulty installation of Microsoft Dynamics AX to replace nearly 40-year-old "mainframe style software."

That delay led Moody’s Investor Service to withdraw the town’s credit rating in January 2016 for lack of information. Moody’s reinstated its rating the following year, at a lower rating.

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