When the web walls came tumbling down

HARRISON –

Behind the digital walls, the keepers put up the good fight.

But the relentless onslaught of cyber invaders ultimately punctured those walls on July 7, the day when the website of the Town of Harrison went down.

And, as of last week, it was still down although Mayor James Fife said it was in the process of being “rebuilt.”

Nick Ayala, principal of Scan Worx, which has managed that website for nine years, was still fighting off the invisible hordes when he took time to relate to The Observer how the episode unfolded.

As explained by Ayala, the problem came to light when Hostway Services Inc., which hosts the “domain name” of the Harrison municipal website, “early in the morning [on July 7] saw some activity going on and they closed the site.”

What had happened to trigger shutting it down?

“The Town’s website was hacked and compromised [on that date],” Ayala said. “Within two days we had the website up and running again onto be hacked seven more times. These are highly intelligent criminals who seek to cause havoc and destruction in the cyber world. Unfortunately, these are the times that we live in.”

Still, it could have been worse.

Because the contents of the Harrison website deal with general information, such as government meeting notices, alerts about upcoming events of interest to the general public and the like – as opposed to private and confidential information for employees – the hacking attack was viewed as annoying but not a disaster.

In the meantime, said Ayala, “we have been in constant contact with the Mayor’s office regarding this matter and we are working to resolve this issue.

“Scan Worx is working very hard to preserve and maintain the Town’s information in a secure environment as we have done for the last nine years. We have put hundreds of hours repairing and rebuilding the Town’s website and also adding new security features.

“I am very grateful for the patience and understanding that all of the heads of [municipal] departments and our citizens have shown.”

Ayala said that Scan Worx, through a software package, was able to trace the source of the cyber attack to California but because it has “12 different IP (Internet Protocol) addresses,” the intruder is tough to pin down.

Asked why the intruder would be so persistent in attacking a site that offers no sensitive information, Ayala said that often “there’s no rhyme or reason for it. Our tracking device has detected similar [cyber probes] from Romania, Poland, China.

“We put a block on [these outside intruders] every day,” he added.

 

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.