South Carolina

Computer malware shut down government offices in South Carolina county, officials say

Malicious software on government computers shut down the Oconee County courthouse and most other county government offices Thursday, the sheriff’s office says.

State and federal investigators are helping the Upstate sheriff’s office investigate what happened, officials said.

“We’ve not ruled out that it could be criminal in nature and that’s why we have investigators working with SLED and the FBI,” Capt. Travis Tilson with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office told WSPA.

“All Oconee County offices will be open for business (Friday), although some offices may have limited resources until all systems are fully restored,” County Administrator Amanda Brock said, according to WYFF.

Tilson said county officials do not know “how severe the malware attack is and how it has affected their servers. They also don’t know if any data breach has occurred or what all else may be affected,” WHNS reported.

“The servers affected have been isolated and taken offline,” the sheriff’s office said.

Malware, or malicious software, comes in several forms, including software that can spy on people or hold a computer system ransom, according to computer security company Norton. “This is software that is specifically designed to gain access to or damage a computer, usually without the knowledge of the owner,” according to Norton.

“This is not a threat to the public and is isolated to the servers within Oconee County administrative buildings,” the sheriff’s department said.

There has been an increasing number of “ransomware” cases, where hackers hold computer systems ransom for payment, according to The New York Times.

The most high-profile case so far this year was in Baltimore, where hackers took control of the computer systems the city uses to run its government, The Times reports.

Officials in Oconee County have not said if the malware was intended to hold the government systems ransom.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.