The Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro town websites were unreachable for much of last Monday and Tuesday, forcing the last-minute cancellation and rescheduling of at least four local board meetings.
The cause of the trouble was at CivicPlus, a Kansas company that hosts municipal websites for more than 4,000 local and county governments in North America and Australia. Other Eastern Mass. municipalities that went offline last week included Dennis, Chatham, Mashpee, Bourne, Plymouth, Salem, Amesbury, and Boxborough.
The state attorney general’s office issued a statement explaining when towns are required to reschedule meetings to comply with the open meeting law. If the town website is the official posting place for notices, any outage of six hours or more in the 48-hour period prior to a meeting requires that it be rescheduled.
Eastham and Wellfleet have designated their websites as the official posting place. In Wellfleet, last week’s meetings of the select board and finance committee were affected. In Eastham, the T-Time development committee and conservation commission meetings had to be rescheduled.
Truro’s official posting site is the town hall bulletin board, so the website problem did not affect its meeting schedule.
Provincetown did not experience any disruption of town government because even though its town website uses CivicPlus software it is hosted on local servers. In addition, Provincetown’s official notice location is not its website but a binder in the Town Clerk Darlene Van Alstyne’s office that is available during business hours.
CivicPlus spokesman Jessica Marabella said via email that the outage was caused by an issue at a third-party data center that hosts the websites. The initial outage on Feb. 24 was followed by additional downtime while data center staff performed work overnight, Marabella said.
“We apologize for the disruption our vendor’s temporary outage caused to our clients and the citizens in their communities,” she said. “We will continue to ensure that we are aligning our company with the most reliable service providers in the market and will remain vigilant in holding open dialogue with our hosting vendor to ensure they are maintaining the systems that they have put in place to mitigate any future website disruptions.”
The CivicPlus website states that the company enables its clients to “reach citizens with a device-agnostic, omnichannel citizen communication strategy.”
In other technology news, the Provincetown Council on Aging was the victim of an email spoofing attack last week.
Email spoofing makes a message appear to be from a trusted source when it is actually sent from a different email account. The suspicious email in this case has the subject “Invoice from Provincetown Council On Aging,” includes contact information for the COA, and contains a malicious Java program hidden in a ZIP file attachment.
The email was not sent by the COA, and its staff advise that anyone who received a message appearing to be from Andrea Lavenets with a ZIP file attachment delete it immediately. Questions can be directed to the COA at (508) 487-7080.