AUGUSTA – Legislative staffers reloaded data into a state website Wednesday after discovering the site was infected by a virus.

Hackers were drawn to the site after they learned the system was vulnerable to attack, the Legislature’s director of information technology said Wednesday.

Scott Clark updated legislative leaders on the situation that came to his attention last week when someone who attempted to use the system that tracks the status of legislation alerted him it was running slowly.

He said he doesn’t think the hacker was targeting the Legislature specifically.

“They probe and they look for particular openings or decreased security and then take advantage of it,” he said. “I don’t think the Legislature was targeted.”

The hackers inserted a virus into the system that redirected users to another website.

He said most browsers or common antivirus security would have blocked the virus from damaging a home computer. However, state officials took the site down once they were notified and wiped out all the information, which is now being reloaded by legislative staffers.

The site gives updates on the status of bills, such as roll calls, committee votes, amendments and fiscal notes. It is used less frequently in the summer when the Legislature is not in session, Clark said.

House Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, asked Clark whether he had tested other state systems to make sure they were not vulnerable to the same type of problem.

“It does open you up to, ‘Oh, maybe Maine is vulnerable,’” she said. “Is there any way to review all of our systems?”

Clark said they have checked other systems, but that this is the only website accessible to the public that the state bought through a vendor. International Roll-Call has been working closely with the state to fix the problem, he said.

Unlike a situation at the University of Maine System this week — in which a server containing personal information belonging to students was breached — no personal information was exposed by the legislative issue, Clark said.

He expects to begin to test the system today and hopes to get it back online soon.

“I’m troubled by the fact that we’ve had it down for five days,” he said.

 

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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