Computer Outage Strikes Montana State Government

Much of Montana's government computer system crashed Monday, idling state employees and frustrating those who wanted to do such things as renew driver's licenses and obtain fishing permits.

Technicians were unable to locate the problem by late afternoon, making no promises when the computers would be working again.

Some key systems used by the Montana Highway Patrol and others were rerouted, the governor's office said. Arrangements had been made so that debit cards used by those who receive food stamps would also work.

But the vast majority of services and computers remained down, and state government was essentially immobilized, said Dick Clark, the state's chief information officer.

Clark said he couldn't speculate if a virus or hacker was to blame. Workers monitoring the state network saw a "spike" in traffic around 1:30 a.m. Monday, and noticed performance problems. The network then shut down.

Clark said state government saw similar problems about four years ago when a virus brought the network down.