NORTH PORT — The city Thursday authorized hiring outside experts to address what looked like an unauthorized breach or hack of its internal technology infrastructure.
What was defined as a “computer security incident” prompted the North Port City Commission to authorize emergency purchases and other measures to limit further threats or damage to North Port’s automated systems.
Learning of a likely breach or the threat of one, North Port late Tuesday shut down its internal technology, issued alternate phone lines to the public, closed off virtual access to most city services such as permits, planning and inspections, a spokesperson said.
North Port also issued public alerts via social media, listed alternate non-emergency contacts. Police and fire emergency services continued without interruption, however.
The spending authorization, which was open-ended, followed a national alert this week issued as a joint Cybersecurity Advisory that provided an overview of Russian state-sponsored cyber operations, including tactics, techniques and procedures, according to released details.
It also provided detection actions, incident response guidance or temporary workarounds, which is what North Port administrators were tasked with doing Thursday.
It wasn’t yet clear whether public data were affected in the security incident. The city directed those with concerns to cityofnorthport.com/alerts.
On Wednesday, the city issued an alert the police department’s main non-emergency number was out of service, and recommended using alternative numbers to call.
The main number, 941-429-7300 was up and running Thursday. The 911 line was operational throughout the day. Other numbers have been knocked out as well.
“We need help,” spokesperson Josh Taylor said of Thursday’s special City Commission session to hire outside contractors.
There was no indication North Port was responding to a ransomware attack, in which cybercriminals infiltrate and freeze anything from electric grids to personal data, demanding a ransom to unlock that threat. Billions in ransomware had reportedly been paid in such recent attacks, according to media accounts.