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Eastern Band Still Recovering From Cyber Attack

Matt Bush
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians where the target of a cyber attack this month.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians(EBCI) are still working to fix their network after a cyber attack says Principal Chief Richard Sneed. This month, “ransomware," a virus which encrypts files,was put on their network. Usually, the encrypter will then offer to sell back the files for a ransom, thus the name, explains Sneed. 

“Sitting in these briefing meetings and talking with consultants it feels like we are in a movie script,” says Sneed. 

The current suspect was a member of the EBCI's IT department. Benjamin Cody Long, 36, has been arrested and arraigned on a number of charges such as felony tampering with public records and felony tampering with government functions,according to the Cherokee One Feather.

“The evidence right now is pointing to a bad actor on the inside. That’s a tough one to plan for but we are building safeguards into the system to where that won’t be an issue in the future,” says Sneed.  

The case is being looked into on the federal level. Sneed says that there isn’t a timeline on if the U.S. Attorney’s Office  will get involved. U.S. Homeland Security initally called the case “domestic terrorism.” 

Sneed says he doesn’t want to comment on the offical statutes of that definition.

Emergency services are still available on the boundary but much of the network is still down. Sneed says financial and health records were safe because they were on seperate servers. 

“Currently we aren’t at full capacity, let’s put it that way,” says Sneed. 

The EBCI is insured against cyber attacks. Sneed explains that the Secretary of the Treasury implemented the insurance two years ago. This means that they will be able to recoup costs from this incident.  

“You know because of the prevalence of technology this is becoming more and more common,” says Sneed. “Criminals are always looking for a way, right?”

Sneed expects that the EBCI network will be fully functional in a few weeks.


Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.