Onslow County Water and Sewer Authority completing final upgrades after cyber attack

ONSLOW COUNTY, NC (WITN) - One of the largest water providers in the state, located in Eastern Carolina, is almost back normal after a cyber attack took down the computer systems late last year.

Onslow Water and Sewer Authority, ONWASA, customer service has been back to full operations for several weeks now.

Some work still needs to be done, but the CEO says the top priority was getting new defenses in place immediately following the attack to avoid a repeat situation.

ONWASA, was forced out of their computers in October after a cyber attacker broke through four layers of defense and demanded a ransom.

The company refused to pay the attackers, forcing them to re-build their databases. Officials say no customer data was compromised in the attack, but customer service employees has to record all transitions solely with pen and paper for one week.

Details on the motive of the attack aren't known as this is an ongoing FBI investigation, but ONWASA'S CEO says the timing of the attack, just one month after hurricane Florence, combined with other factors, may have made the utility provider a target.

CEO Jeff Hudson said, "We are in an area impacted by the storm. we are a critical utility and we serve the United States Government, and it's military installations. So personally, I don't believe very often in coincidence."

ONWASA has applied new and different defense tactics on all their devices. They still have to provide laptops equipped with the updates to service crews. The water and sewer company expects those upgrades to be complete by the end of January.