Devon email blunder wipes all council documents since 2015

John Image copyright Google/Tiverton Town Council
Image caption Tiverton Town Council clerk John Vanderwolfe said he was now "afraid to open anything"

A town clerk has wiped council documents dating back to 2015 after mistakenly opening an email containing a virus.

John Vanderwolfe said the computer "actually started to shake" after he mistakenly opened the email sent to Tiverton Town Council in Devon.

The email claimed to be from a parcel delivery firm and infected all the council's computers.

Mr Vanderwolfe said it was the worst thing to happen in his 12 years there.

For more on the email blunder story, and other news

"Unfortunately I pressed the button and immediately I could tell there was something wrong because the actual machine started to shake," Mr Vanderwolfe said.

"Within a few minutes it had encrypted all our data which means of course that we can't get hold of it.

"It's what's called a ransom email which tells you that if you pay a large sum of money they will de-encrypt it for you but there's no guarantee of that."

'Not on purpose'

Most of the lost documents are letters - finance and planning documents were saved because they are on another system.

But the lost letters could take months to rescan and upload. The council is now looking into computer security measures.

"In hindsight you can see there are perhaps signs of danger but you get so many emails," he said.

"These things happen and I didn't do it on purpose. You keep thinking, 'if only I had not pressed that button'.

"I am now afraid to open anything."

Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed they were aware of the Ransomware attack and have given Tiverton Town Council advice on internet security.

Police said they will be informing other local councils within the area of the threat "to ensure online security is up to scratch".

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