West Hartford Website Back Online, Provider Applies Patch

Screen shot of the Town of West Hartford's website back online Friday morning.

West Hartford Police worked with the CT Intelligence Center on the issue, which impacted government websites throughout the country served by Granicus.

By Ronni Newton

The Town of West Hartford’s website was back online early Friday morning after the provider created and applied a patch to fix a vulnerability discovered Thursday when the site was hacked and a threatening message appeared.

The Town of West Hartford’s IT Department had taken the site down immediately once the problem was discovered, out of an “abundance of caution and to preserve the system for law enforcement,” according to a statement issued by West Hartford Police Friday morning.

Police said that it had been discovered that the town’s website provider, Granicus, had been hit with an “exploit virus,” which led to the hack.

Granicus specializes in government websites, police said, and other communities throughout the country, including in Santa Barbara, CA, were also impacted. Granicus was able to create a patch “to fix this vulnerability for all of their impacted customers,” according to the police statement.

According to its website, Granicus is an international company with more than 3,000 public sector clients.

The patch was applied late Thursday night, but West Hartford’s IT Department did not put the town’s website back online until about 6:30 a.m. Friday.

“We took a little extra time to get up and running, to make sure there were no other viruses,” Interim Town Manager Peter Privitera said Friday morning.

Nothing else was found, and no other incidents had arisen as a result of the vendor breach, Privitera said.

“It was an inconvenience to the residents of the town who would go on to access information, but it’s separate and apart from the town databases,” said Privitera. No sensitive information was compromised as a result of the hack, which impacted only the public site and not the town’s internal network.

The problem was discovered on the town’s website at approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday. According to several Facebook posts about the hack, instead of West Hartford’s homepage, visitors to the site instead saw an image of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un along with a message something like: “If you attack us (North Korea) we will attack Washington, D.C.”

Lt. Eric Rocheleau of the West Hartford Police Department said that details of the exact message are not being released because of the nature and scope of the investigation into an incident that impacted communities throughout the country.

West Hartford Police and the town’s IT Department provided all logs to the CT Intelligence Center which is continuing to investigate.

“I hope that as the investigation goes on that we can use the information to prevent this from happening again,” Privitera said.

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