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Human error caused August computer outages

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Human error was the reason for computer outages that interrupted operations of state agencies in August, according to the results of an investigation released today.

The error occurred on Aug. 25 during the replacement of a memory board at the state data center owned and operated by Northrop Grumman, according to Agilysis, the company hired to conduct the audit.

“A gap in the Information Technology Service Continuity Management risk management processes contributed to the spread of data corruption and contributed to an 18-hour delay in return to service,” Agilysis said in the audit.

The outages affected 13 percent of the commonwealth’s executive branch file servers and 26 of 89 branch agencies—most visibly the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. In the wake of the outages, Gov. Bob McDonnell directed DMV offices in every region of the state to work weekend hours in order to accommodate Virginians inconvenienced by the outages. He also called for an audit to be paid for by Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman is being paid more than $2.5 billion over 13 years to modernize Virginia’s computer network. The report provides a path for the commonwealth to recover losses from the company for the outage pursuant to the contract between the parties. Northrop Grumman, a major government contractor, plans to move its headquarters to Fairfax this summer.

“Northrop Grumman is committed to this partnership and dedicated to meeting our obligations with regard to the quality of the commonwealth’s infrastructure and the services we deliver,” the company said in a statement. “We have been working hard since the August 2010 outage to make the appropriate improvements to help avoid or mitigate similar disruptions. We are ready to engage in discussions with the commonwealth about how the report recommendations could be best implemented.”


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