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- The county hired multiple cybersecurity firms 'to conduct an examination to protect employees and residents as well as restore online services.'
A cyberattack targeted the computer systems of several departments in Suffolk County, N.Y., shutting down many government services and computer systems. Among those affected are computing services handling real estate transactions.
The data breach, which began on Sept. 8, has stirred a frenzy of county citizens worried about their data and credit being accessed. The county promptly hired multiple cybersecurity firms "to conduct an examination to protect employees and residents as well as restore online services," the announcement said.
As of Sept. 20, the criminal hacker group "BlackCat" has claimed responsibility and has threatened to leak secure files, according to posts on the dark web.
The breach is forcing all services impacted to document everything using the old-school method of writing everything down on paper. This is especially difficult for Suffolk County brokers and mortgage professionals attempting to close housing contracts submitted prior to the Sept. 8 attack.
“Essentially, we’ve been forced to put people's contracts in queue and have them sit there until we can get some access to [be online],” said Rachel DeChance, owner of Zenith Abstract title agency out of Sayville, N.Y. “Until then, everything is at a stand still.”
DeChance says that pre-existing contracts are able to be kept moving through cooperation with underwriters. With this cooperation, DeChance says that clean files — files with no judg\ments against the seller — are given the go-ahead to proceed closing them.
“My understanding is that we’re the third municipality to be dealing with this type of attack,” DeChance said. “The last one was in Maryland and it took them about 45 days to get through that. I don’t know if we’ll be able to be permitted to continue writing policies. It’s a big chance to go off of rates 45+ days ago.”
DeChance said the current breach reminds her of Suffolk County at the beginning of the pandemic; both created a delay in real estate transactions. She said she has no estimate of when access to safe computers will return.
“When everything reopens, it’ll be hell,” DeChance said. “But for now, this is purgatory.”