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US government service improves after virus takes out email

Customers enjoy return to human contact after malware attack

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A virus attack which hit the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) was so severe the agency pulled the plug on its email systems. Twelve weeks later the agency is yet to fully restore email and has only a rudimentary web site in place.

But as the Washington Post reports, some of the agency’s staff and customers have found faxes and phone calls offer better and faster service.

The EDA is a branch of the Commerce Department and the attack apparently had the potential to swamp that parent organisation, so the EDA’s systems were taken offline and replacement infrastructure rushed into production. But that left the agency without working email for several weeks, during which time the Post reports staff gave out personal cell phone numbers so customers could stay in touch.

Several offices also reverted to using faxes to communicate with customers. Paper-based workflows were re-activated by veteran staff who it seems were never too keen on email anyway.

Customers have been understanding about the ensuing delays, but also appreciative that actual humans from the agency are now picking up the phone and speaking to them.

“You pick up your phone and you get back to some human interaction,” one customer told the Post, “which in my opinion is never a bad thing, especially for government.” ®

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