Email meltdown at Norfolk County Council ‘not cyber attack’

Problems which hit 2,000 workers at Norfolk County Council were not a cyber attack, bosses said.

Problems which hit 2,000 workers at Norfolk County Council were not a cyber attack, bosses said. - Credit: Archant

Bosses at Norfolk County Council have said a computer fault, which left 2,000 council workers unable to access their email accounts, was not a cyber attack.

The problem, which has affected a third of the council's workforce, started last Tuesday, when workers returned from the Easter Monday bank holiday.

Staff and experts from Microsoft have been working 'around the clock' to resolve the problem and today, the cause of the fault was identified with emails restored to staff.

David Collinson, assistant director, public protection at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We have now identified the fault that has caused the loss of email to about a third of our staff and elected members since Easter and today we have been steadily restoring users to a full service without the loss of any data.

'By 4pm today, email had been restored to virtually all users affected and the few remaining will be brought back by close of play today or first thing tomorrow morning.

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'This has been a very challenging issue to resolve and we are grateful to the efforts of our IT staff who worked tirelessly into the night to resolve the problem.

'Their dedication and commitment has meant that we have managed to keep disruption to the public to a minimum.'

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Council bosses also ruled out hacking as the cause of the problem.

Mr Collinson said: 'We are very confident this was a system fault rather than a deliberate cyber attack, and we have been able to resolve things within our own resources within existing support arrangements and without the need to buy expensive new equipment.

'We would like to apologise again for any disruption this has caused to the public and our own staff and councillors.

'We are currently completing health checks to check other parts of our system and we will carry out a thorough review of what has happened and certainly look to capture lessons learned for the future.'

In December, the county council announced it had signed a 'ground-breaking agreement' to transform and improve public services in Norfolk by harnessing the power of new technology.

The Digital Norfolk Ambition project - between Norfolk County Council and HP, and its key partners Microsoft and Vodafone - was hailed as a way to make more than £10m savings from the council's IT budget over the next five years.

The move, the council said, would also provide front-line staff with 'the latest technology to help deliver efficient and sustainable public services'.

It has also led to a number of redundancies among IT staff at County Hall.

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