AUGUSTA — The Kennebec County phone system logs typically about 400 calls in a weekend.

By Sunday, the number had topped 2,100, signaling a breach of the county’s phone system.

On Tuesday, county administrator Robert Devlin said BCN Telecom,the county’s telecommunications vendor, noticed the uptick in activity and shut down long-distance calling for county departments.

The source of the phone hacking isn’t known, but Devlin said the callers were trying to reach gaming sites. “Those were the messages they left, anyway,” he said. “It looks like calls were going to Cuba, the United Kingdom, Albania, Syria and Lithuania.”

Indications are that the hackers used a botnet system, or a series of infected computers, to find and exploit a password on the phone system to gain access. The suspended long-distance service was in the process of being restored this week.

While this is a first for the county phone system, computer hacking attempts aren’t rare for the county. Devlin said the county’s computer systems constantly fend off hacking attacks, and layers of firewalls are in place for protection.

“We’ve had only one ransom demand,” he said, referring to the recent wave in cybercrime in which hackers deploy a virus to control computers and hold the information they contain for ransom. “We didn’t pay anything. The computer was backed up so we crashed it and rebuilt it.”

Earlier this year, Maine’s state government website was hacked with a denial of service attack, disabling it for hours.

Devlin said the county didn’t lose anything except time spent on updating passwords and unfettered access to international calls, which — though rare — now will require going through the county’s information technology department.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ