Okanogan County government offices are operating without computers — and with limited phone service — after a cyber attack on the county’s computer infrastructure was discovered this weekend. Emergency dispatch and 911 calls are not affected.
Employees in the county’s information technology (IT) department have been working nonstop to identify the extent of the attack since they were notified, Okanogan County Manager Maurice Goodall said on Tuesday (Jan. 19). They are being assisted by an outside technology firm. The IT team finally got a break to go home on Monday night, Goodall said.
For emergencies, call 911.
The Sheriff’s Office dispatch center also has three phone numbers for non-emergencies:
• (509) 422-7119
• (509) 422-6968
• (509) 422-6967
To reach a county office or staff person, try the direct phone number. If that doesn’t work, dial the county’s call center at (509) 422-2420 or (509) 422-2422 and they will relay a message.
Okanogan County Emergency Management plans to send out daily updates around 5 p.m. through its emergency alert system. To sign up for the service, go to http://www.okanogandem.org. The alerts are also used to notify people in the event of a wildfire, road closures or other emergency.
Okanogan County Emergency Management notified residents about the attack through its alert system on Monday afternoon. It’s too early to say when the computer system will be fully operational, Goodall said.
Because the county’s phone system is computer-controlled, most office phones are not working, although some work intermittently, Goodall said. County staff have no voicemail or email.
County offices are open, but limited in the services they can provide. “We’ve gone back to the Stone Age, without any computers,” Goodall said.
The outage affects all county departments — including the county commissioners, auditor, Public Health, Public Works, and parts of the Sheriff’s Office. The county’s dispatch center and emergency services and radios are working. In addition, there are some hard phone lines — not connected to the computer system — to the Sheriff’s Office and the emergency operations center that are operating, Goodall said.
Goodall said he didn’t know if the attack had disabled the county’s computers or if they had been shut down to protect the network after the attack was discovered.
The cyberattack has affected only the county government. City governments and residential and business phones and computer networks in the county are not affected, Goodall said.
The county had already planned to close all but the Fourth Street entrance to the courthouse this week as a safety precaution because of threats to government buildings after the invasion of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, Goodall said. Jurors who were scheduled to call in this week for jury duty in Superior Court and District Court are excused.
Although there are always minor problems like viruses or worms on individual computers, Goodall said he wasn’t aware of a previous widespread cyber attack on the county’s computer network. Still, “it’s a constant battle for IT,” he said.