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Cyberattacks on state court system, health department under investigation

The source and purpose of the attacks remain unknown.
Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 4:30 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Officials are still working to uncover the cause and intent of recent cyberattacks against state agencies.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services experienced a malware attack this week, according to a press release sent Tuesday by the department’s communication lead, Clinton Bennett.

According to the prepared statement, “the department is investigating the incident in cooperation with the appropriate authorities and is taking immediate actions to prevent further disruption and harm to its servers, systems and databases.”

It is the second recent cyberattack to disrupt the functions of state government. In late April, a similar incident caused the Alaska Court System to disconnect online services, to “remove malware from its servers,” according to a statement posted on the court’s website.

Impacted court system services included electronic filing, court email addresses, online court calendars, online payments and virtual hearings.

The website dhss.alaska.gov was taken offline May 17. Some services hosted on outside services are still be available, according to the release, including COVID-19 vaccine appointment scheduling and the COVID-19 data dashboard.

Seventeen online services provided by DHSS were offline as of Tuesday, including the health department website, vital records, background checks, case management for temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), and available bed counts for behavioral health facilities.

“... our department is doing everything possible to get our website back up and running safely and to understand the scope of the attack, its impacts, and how to prevent this from happening in the future,” said DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum in the press release.

Meanwhile, the Alaska Court System also does not yet know the motive for the breach or who was responsible, according to an email from Mara Rabinowitz, a member of the court’s communications team.

The agency has said it did not receive a ransomware demand, and that it does not believe any data, “including personal or confidential data was extracted from the court system’s computer systems.”

Email, public access to online records and online payment of fees and fines have been restored, Rabinowitz said.

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