Cost to council of computers crippled by viral infection
It seems local government in the UK still has not learned how to maintain effective IT security or to control the costs when things go wrong. A story published today (3rd of September) in the Evening Standard newspaper reveals that the true cost of a crippling infection of Tory run Ealing Council's IT systems which occurred back in May, is only now starting to emerge.
The infection apparently started when an unidentified council worker at the Council's social services and housing department, reportedly located in Southall, plugged in an infected USB memory stick. The Evening Standard does not say which virus was involved, but it's telling that the council's network was re-infected twice in the week following the initial infection, prolonging the problem. It's also telling that the IT service is not run by the council, but is outsourced.
What is not clear is how much of the disruption was caused by the virus itself and how much was due to the council's attempts to control the situation. Apparently the council website, internet connection, telephones, email, payment systems and cloakroom and parking ticket systems were shut down on the 20th of May and normal service was not resumed for over a week.
According to a report in the local paper the Ealing Gazette Ealing Council's head of service, Mark Newton, said in a report on the problem "The other major lesson learned was that if the impact had been more fully understood then service areas could have made plans and alternative arrangements earlier." From this it would seem that the council was ill prepared and responded poorly.
First estimates of the cost to the cash short council of dealing with the infection apparently came to £501,000 and a later council report is warning costs could top £1.1 million if a new security system is needed.
As seems to be the case with reports of such infections it has taken some time for this one to surface. While the Evening Standard story appeared today, the Ealing page of the Liberal Democrats web site reported it on the 24th of May 2009 and it seems the incident itself occurred four days before that.