State court system restores some online services after cyberattack

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 5:46 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Court System, intruded by malware in late April, is making progress restoring public-facing online services.

On a post to its main website Thursday, the court system announced the public can again access online calendars and case information, pay fees and fines online, and send and receive email from court email addresses.

“The public-facing services are closer to being back to normal, but a lot of our internal processes are not,” said Alaska State Court Administrative Director Stacey Marz.

Marz said the intrusion was first detected April 29, four days after the malware hit the system. The court’s computer technology security team has not found any evidence of theft of personal or confidential data, she said.

Additionally, the systems that manage online payments and credit cards do not appear to be involved, she said. Shutting off access to them was done to ensure the malware didn’t spread, she said.

“The solution was to cut the online access so their ability to control actions within the network would be severed,” Marz said.

Zoom hearings, e-filing, video appearances from jail and online bail payments remain unavailable.

“I feel like the court system is really resilient because we were able to pivot very quickly to alter our operations, to have no break in service for the public,” Marz said.

Going low tech by using fax machines and paper filings kept the courts moving, she said.

The court does not yet know who is behind the attack or its purpose, but since the court never received a ransom demand, they do not believe it was someone after a quick pay day.

Cybersecurity experts say ransom is just one reason cyberattacks happen, and that money isn’t the only motivation.

“Things have gotten worse because of the pandemic, and that is that we have become more dependent on online services than ever before. And the criminals know this,” Alan Shark, executive director with the Public Technology Institute told Alaska’s news Source Wednesday.

People seeking a ransom, foreign governments, political agitators and hackers looking to make a name for themselves are all threats to online systems and data, and use automated bots to facilitate their crimes, he said.

“They’re just trolling out there looking for inherent weaknesses, both at the actual government level and also those who supply services to the government,” Shark said.

Shark said frequent backups are a good defense, something Marz said the Alaska Court System does routinely.

“We backup our most servers once a day” Marz said. “And there are some that we backup every hour during business hours and then some we actually have a storage snapshot every five minutes.”

Marz said it could take months to determine where the attack originated.

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