CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire State Police are investigating how convicts at the state prison in Concord hacked into a sensitive Department of Corrections system and whether internal files had been corrupted.

The security breach was discovered last week by a corrections staff member working in the prison industries shops, corrections spokesman Jeffrey Lyons said. About two dozen inmates have access to a cluster of computers on a closed network.

But a staff member noticed Aug. 24 that a cable was linking one of the inmate computers to a staff computer that can access all Corrections Department data systems.

The prison industry shops reopened Wednesday after a five-day shutdown, but the inmate computers remain off limits.

Lyons says investigators haven’t pinpointed when the breach occurred.

“We don’t know for certain when it occurred. We don’t know how long ago it may have occurred,” Lyons said. “We don’t know how it occurred.”

It’s not certain whether internal corrections department files, such as inmates’ records or parole records, were accessed, but the evidence indicates the capability to do so was there, Lyons said. The inmates’ closed network tracks contracts for work done in the prison industry shops and billing, he said.

“It’s a really complex investigation,” Lyons said. “We don’t know whether any data was compromised. Maybe none was.”

Lyons said that appropriate disciplinary action will be taken at the conclusion of the investigation. He was uncertain how long the investigation would take.

Lyons said that about 200 inmates work in the prison industry shops, which include the furniture making shop, printing shop, license plate making shop and the woodworking and sign making shops.

Lyons said DOC security staff, — including a forensic computer crimes investigator — are assisting state police in the investigation. He said the FBI is not involved.

Lyons said his department did not reveal the investigation sooner because “we were trying to determine how deeply this went before we put out any information.”

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