A cyber attack on Crawford County government computers left county offices in a jam over the holidays. County computers were attacked Dec. 26 by malicious software that can prevent access to files, systems or networks, said Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap.
“Our IT guys and the guys at Apprentice (the company that provides IT assistance for the county) have been working day and night to get things back up and running,” Gilstrap said.
According to its website, Apprentice operates in 80 counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma and offers “a range of software packages tailored for specific local government offices, including assessors, collectors, treasurers, county judges, clerks, circuit clerks, and more.”
Gilstrap said technicians were able to shut the computer systems down immediately and prevent the loss of any vital information or files.
“Basically we had to shut down everything from the servers on, but we got it stopped,” Gilstrap said.
Now the chore is getting everyone in county government back up and running, he added. Ryan Norris, Crawford County public defender, said the attack “caused a mess” for everyone with the clerk’s office not even having the ability to pull up jury lists. Gilstrap said the circuit court was still having court. Because the courts are connected to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), much of their system was not down, he said.
As of Tuesday (Jan. 4) the assessor office and tax collector office were back up and running as normal, Gilstrap said.
“Last I heard, the (County Clerk’s office) could not issue marriage licenses,” he said.
Gilstrap said it could be weeks before all issues caused by the attack are discovered and everything is operating as it was before the attack.
“I guess it was good that it happened during a slow period (between Christmas and New Year), if there can be anything good said about it,” Gilstrap said. “Still there were people coming in wanting to pay their taxes or do other things. But they were able to help anyone needing to take care of anything.”
According to the FBI, anyone can unknowingly download ransomware onto a computer by opening an email attachment, clicking an ad, following a link, or visiting a website embedded with malware.
“Once the code is loaded on a computer, it will lock access to the computer itself or data and files stored there. More menacing versions can encrypt files and folders on local drives, attached drives, and even networked computers,” an article on the FBI website states.