By JONAH LOSSIAH and SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) was the victim of a large cyber-attack on Sunday, Dec. 8, and a suspect was arrested and arraigned on Monday. The arraignment hearing for Benjamin Cody Long, 36, was held Monday, Dec. 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Cherokee Tribal Court.
After announcing two alleged felony charges against Long, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the session was suspended until 2:30 p.m. to allow for Long’s attorney to arrive. Attorney Brent Smith arrived, and after short discussions with the Tribal prosecutors and the judge, he requested an extension of the detention trial. According to Tribal law, this can be up to a five-day extension.
Continuation of the detention trial will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 8:30 a.m.
Below are the alleged charges against Long:
* Felony Tampering with Public Records. In violation of Section 14-70.12 (a)(3)
– Purposely and unlawfully destroy, conceal remove or otherwise impair the truth or availability of any such record, document or thing belonging to or received or kept by the Eastern Band Cherokee Indians.
– And Benjamin Cody Long did log into the EBCI Tribal network and placed ransomware to lock all documents and denying all users access to their documents.
* Felony Obstructing Government Functions. In violation of Section 14-70.14 (a)(2)
– Purposefully obstruct, impair, or, prevent the administration of law or other governmental function, by force, violence, physical interference or obstacle, breach of official duty, or any other unlawful act.
– Benjamin Cody Long did log into the EBCI IT travel network and placed ransomware to lock all documents and denying all users access to their documents.
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed declared a State of Emergency for the EBCI tribal government and addressed the Tribe in a video on Monday afternoon and stated, “Over the weekend, the EBCI was the victim of a serious cyber-attack. It is alleged, at this time, that the attack was carried out by a tribal employee. This attack was not made just against the EBCI tribal government but an attack directed against every tribal citizen and employee. Our tribal networks were attacked with ransomware that began to infect all of our tribal systems.”
He added, “As a result of the rapid response of our I.T. employees, the damage was contained. However, as a result, our servers are now powered down to protect our systems and data. The network will continue to be powered down so that the appropriate steps may be taken to ensure the security of our network.”
Chief Sneed said the Tribe’s emergency services are still functioning and there will be no interruption of services there. He spoke of the Tribe’s finances and stated, “Our financial information is secure through our financial systems software provider. There may, however, be a delay in services while we work with the software company to implement temporary access to that system while preserving the security of our data.”
He said the Cherokee Indian Police Department led the way in the investigation and other agencies have been involved including the FBI Cyber Security Response Team, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“This attack is being treated as an act of domestic terrorism.”
Chief Sneed further stated, “It is during trying times such as these that the character and spirit of our Tribe always shines through. To our tribal citizens, I would ask for your patience, grace, and understanding during this very difficult time. To our tribal employees, all departments will continue to operate as normal making the necessary adjustments to deliver services in the most effective manner possible.”
Further details regarding the extent of the data breach are not known at this time, but the One Feather will stay on this story for all updates.