Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Viruses Infecting SOS and Other State Computers?

Secretary of State Mary Herrera said Tuesday that her personal laptop computer and several computers in her office have been the targets of computer virus attacks since April and that other state agencies also have been victims of computer crimes, including an agency that lost $700,000 to hackers.

One of the viruses places, according to a report by KOB television, apparently put links to pornographic websites on the desktop of Herrera’s computer. She said the malicious software, called “Defense Center” was disguised as anti-virus software.

“These unfortunate, common viruses have been capable of penetrating units with up-to-date software protection,” Herrera said in a news release. Herrera’s deputy Franciso Trujillo told KOB last week that Herrera’s computer did not have virus protection.

But, Herrera stressed that none of the viruses ever jeopardized the state’s voter registration database or her office’s program for victims of domestic violence who have their mail forwarded from the Secretary of State’s Office. Those files, which contain confidential information, are all on paper, not in the computer system, Herrera said.

Herrera said that hers is not the only state office to suffer from computer attacks. One hacker was able to steal $700,000 from the New Mexico Educational Assistance Foundation, Herrera said. The state Legislature’s website also was hit recently by computer malware, Herrera said.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Information Technology couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Herrera said the first computer infected was one used by office manager Manuel Vildasol. Her news release included an email from an Information Technology employee indicting that Vildasol had been the victim of a “phishing” scam in which he’d inadvertently been tricked into giving his computer user name and password to someone who was “spamming the world” — that is, sending numerous unwarranted e-mails from Vildasol’s account.

Vildasol appeared on the television reporter talking about the viruses on Herrera’s laptop. There he used a hidden video camera to tape computer personnel in Herrera’s office working on her laptop. He accused Herrera of “covering up” anything controversial.

Vildasol does not have a listed phone number and couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Herrera denied a report that the resume of one of her family members was on her computer.

Below is the news release. (Click on full-screen mode):

SOS Computer Virus News Release

And here's the original KOB report: