New Boston city computers show evidence of tampering

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Computers not wiped clean by system installs


By Kenny Mitchell



This morning, the Tribune was at New Boston City Hall to investigate the allegations that city owned computers had been “wiped clean” by the city’s contracted networking specialist, or by city employees.

Tribune staff reporter Heather Russell and myself spoke with city leaders including Mayor Johnny Branson, City Secretary Darla Faulknor and Police Chief Gary McCrary. Also in the meeting were city councilman Richard Ellis and the city’s Information Technology specialist Zach Hicks.

Hicks was at the meeting to refute accusations leveled against he and the city that its computers had been wiped clean during the recent troubles with now terminated former police chief Tony King.

After talking with the city leaders, it was suggested that the computers in question have diagnostic checks run on them to determine when the operating systems and various programs had been installed. A system utility was executed on those computers, which showed that the operating systems and programs had been installed for several years, and were not recently installed. There was no evidence that either computer had been wiped clean.

The Tribune then requested that the computer of the fired former chief undergo a system restore, setting its state back to a prior date. That system restore was agreed to and Tribune staff watched as the computer was restored back to a date weeks ago, well before King was terminated.

Before the system restore, King’s former computer in his office had very few documents or programs showing on the desktop. Missing were documents like the memo issued by King the same day the New Boston City Council voted to terminate him for lack of confidence. That document looked to be dated in March, but had the earmarks of being authored the day of his termination.

After the restore this morning, the desktop filled with documents and programs including budget spreadsheets, workload documents and network shortcuts.

Also found on the computer was a system program called CCCleaner, which is a utility program used to clean potentially unwanted files and invalid Windows Registry entries from a computer.

It is impossible to determine what all should have been there, but we saw firsthand that there were documents and programs that had been deleted. In light of the evidence proving that the computers had not been “wiped” by an operating program install or other system utility at the hands of Hicks or any other current city employee, the files had to have been deleted sometime between the system restore date and the last day of King’s employment.

According to an IT specialist, those files had to have been deleted manually, by hand, by someone sitting at that computer, as no remote access had been allowed, and the password for remote access is changed automatically after each session.

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