SOUTHWICK — When hackers target a police department website, can anyone on the internet really feel safe?
Southwick Police Chief Kevin Bishop announced Thursday that the department’s official webpage, www.SouthwickPolice.com, has been taken out of commission.
The reason, he said, is hackers some time ago infected the site with malware — malicious software — that interfered with the site’s operation.
After trying unsuccessfully to remove it, Bishop said he decided to simply pull the plug. But a replacement is on the way.
The page had been infected with redirect malware that automatically sends the user to another site.
In this case, people logging onto the Southwick police site for news and information or police activity and arrest logs would instead be sent to a webpage for an online pharmacy.
“You’d go to some pharmaceutical company,” Bishop said.
No data on the site or any records were affected, he said. “You’d just go to some other page someplace.”
Bishop said the department tried several times to remove the malware when it was detected around a month ago, but without success. But when that became an investment of too much time and expense, Bishop said he decided to shut the whole thing down and start over.
The department had used the same webpage since 2008.
In recent years, the department has established a presence of Facebook and has relied on the social media site to get news and information out to the community, and the website came to be de-emphasized, Bishop said.
Bishop used Facebook to report on the demise of SouthwickPolice.com and the reasons why after people in a Southwick community forum page on Facebook complained that the site being disabled showed a lack of communication from the police.
The chief explained the site was down due to “technical difficulties” rather than the department trying to keep the community in the dark.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused and we hope to see you online once again very soon,” he wrote.
Bishop said he intends to meet with a web designer in the next week about developing a new site.
Details are still a little fluid at the moment, but he said he envisions a new police webpage that is better than the old one. In addition to news, announcements and the arrest log, the new site will have forms and other services for residents.
He would also like to make it a little more secure too, he said.