Cybercrime logoThe head of the town's Finance Committee -- an influential evaluator of town funds -- says that it eventually will review all factors that led to the theft of nearly half a million dollars via a sophisticated overseas computer scam.

The Town of Arlington revealed June 5 that it had been hacked by unknown criminals who had perpetrated a business email compromise scheme using phishing, spoofing, social engineering and compromised email accounts to facilitate wire fraud. By impersonating an Arlington High School reconstruction-project vendor, the thieves diverted town payments to themselves between Sept. 12, 2023, and Jan. 30, 2024.

Vendor paid for real after June 4 vote

On June 4, the AHS Building Committee voted to compensate the actual vendor. "The vendor needed to be paid, so the Building Committee authorized payment to the vendor. This vote was standard procedure as part of our approval process for expenses associated with the project," Committee Chair Jeff Thielman confirmed to YourArlington via email Thursday, June 13.

The ongoing AHS rebuild, expected to take about another year to complete and with remaining work having mainly to do with athletic facilities, remains unaffected, officials say. 

"After discussions with the Town Manager [Jim Feeney] and Deputy Town Manager for Finance [Alex Magee], it was decided that the Finance Committee will conduct a review of the recent cyber crime attack that led to the loss of $445,945.73," wrote Christine Deshler, chair of Fincom, in an email message to YourArlington on Thursday, June 13.

"Our review will begin once law enforcement investigations have concluded, or at such time as town officials are permitted to discuss the matter more freely. In addition to himself and members of his staff, [Feeney] has committed to making available to the Finance Committee all town employees who play a critical part in ensuring the cyber security and financial position of the town, including the IT director, comptroller, treasurer and others.

Not only what but how

"The Finance Committee's review will focus not only on what occurred and how, but [also] on what resources the town needs to protect itself against future cyber crime, in whatever form that may take.

"Lastly, I would like to note that the town manager informed the chair of the Finance Committee of the cyber security crime quickly after it was first discovered and has updated the chair since. Because of the status of law enforcement investigations, the chair understands why details of this crime could not have been broadcast more widely to the town [and community] sooner. The Finance Committee looks forward to conducting its in-depth review of the cyber security crime as quickly as it is able," Deshler concluded. 

Still under investigation

YourArlington has since June 6 requested additional details. These include what vendor was involved; how many town employee email addresses were compromised and in which departments; and in what foreign nation(s) are the perpetrators believed to be based.

The response Friday, June 14, from Joan Roman, the town public-information representative: "We will not be releasing any additional information at this time, as the matter remains under investigation by our law-enforcement partners."

ACMi interviews Town Manager Feeney June 6:

June 5, 2024: Unknown cybercriminals hack town, steal $446k; officials work to recoup loss, prevent recurrence

This account was published the evening of Friday, June 14, 2024, based on emails from Finance Committee Chair Christine Deshler, Arlington High School Building Committee Chair Jeff Thielman, the June 5 letter/news release about the situation from Town Manager Jim Feeney and YourArlington's initial report on June 5.