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North Port is considering cash incentives to lure big-ticket manufacturers or technology firms.

NORTH PORT — The city is still piecing through what was confirmed as a “computer security incident,” an intrusion of its internal technology system that began last week.

The hack started late on Jan. 10 with “some systems acting strange,” city spokesperson Josh Taylor said Tuesday of initial software and cloud storage/retrieval behavior.

On Jan. 11, city workers shut down its technology programs and linked messaging systems systemwide “in an abundance of caution … to limit (its) possible spread,” Taylor said.

But with the abruptness and concern of the cyber attack — lost data and services and possible ransomware demands — North Port City Commission on Thursday authorized outside help.

An unnamed firm rushed its forensic cybertroops to City Hall to assess and put things straight. City staff also created so-called workarounds, things to track and document outside the circle of modern technology — paper and pens, for instance.

“We need help,” Taylor had said of a special meeting to hire outside contractors.

At City Hall and remotely, those experts worked all weekend and into Monday, Taylor said. North Port had also alerted the public, issuing alternate non-emergency phone contacts.

However, because police and fire worked on systems separate from City Hall, emergency services continued without interruption.


Just who attacked North Port, and how such malware or other intrusions were introduced, remain unsolved, at least publicly.

The FBI’s Cyber Division convened a webinar Tuesday of specialists to “discuss how we protect U.S. networks and critical infrastructure from cybercriminals and nation-states that target us,” according to an FBI social media posting that identified several countries and regions behind alleged cyber attacks.

“There is no shortage of cyber enemies both here in the United States and abroad,” the FBI’s release stated.

It continued to be unclear if public data were affected in North Port’s security incident. What was confirmed was the impact on permit and inspection scheduling, which partly is driven by field workers remotely accessing data with a tablet or cellphone to update or report, Taylor said. The shutdown closed those portals.

North Port last year issued some 15,000 building permits for such things as fences and air conditioners to new housing, all of which require a city inspector’s final approval. During the lockdown, inspectors were hobbled.

These services now continue, “at a slower pace,” Taylor said.

The city’s Parks and Recreation division also reported disruptions of some services and reservations. And COVID-19 has limited access to City Hall for weeks. Those restrictions remain.

Check for updates at cityofnorthport.com/alerts.

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