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“I think it behooves anyone who stores sensitive information to basically put the pressure on the vendors who create their websites to do a good job of protecting those sites,” Mackey said.

Many sheriffs said they weren’t using their sites to store Social Security numbers or other highly sensitive data. John Montgomery, sheriff of Baxter County in northern Arkansas, where Brooks-Jeffrey is located, said his department’s website has been used in the past to help track down suspects and get information to the public.

“We are going to continue using the Web,” said Montgomery, whose website was taken down. “Are we going to have to be smarter in how we use the Web as far as security? Sure. We’ll have to look closely at the security measures that go into place.”

Montgomery said the department would also check its internal servers for any weaknesses, and he encouraged other county sheriffs to do the same.


Merchant reported from Little Rock, Ark; Satter reported from London. Associated Press writers Maria Fisher in Kansas City, Mo.; M.L. Johnson in Chicago; Shannon McCaffrey in Atlanta; and Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans contributed to this report.