County computers down after incident

Published 3:04 pm Wednesday, July 8, 2020

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By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Chilton County Commission computer network is temporarily down as specialists research a cyber incident, potentially ransomware, which has disrupted the system.

This incident means normal services offered at the Courthouse requiring local records are temporarily unavailable.

Chilton County Commission Chairman Joseph Parnell issued a statement on the incident on his Facebook Page.

“The incident has caused a temporary disruption to the County’s computer records systems including the tag office and probate court records,” Parnell said in the statement. “Persons needing services provided by our various departments should check with the clerks in the particular department before coming to the courthouse to ensure that needed records are accessible. The County Commission sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience this disruption may cause but it must take appropriate measures to protect the County’s information and data before restoring the computers to normal service.”

Computers in several departments and the county servers have been taken off the network and shutdown as a precautionary measure.

“Our databases and computers are shutdown while the cyber guys are trying to figure out if and what the extent was of the intrusion,” Parnell said in a phone interview.

The servers and computers being off would also eliminate the option of renewing vehicle tags online.

“It could be very minor, and it could be very serious, but we have to treat this like it is extremely serious until we know otherwise,” Parnell said.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office, the FBI cyber branch and other required groups have been notified. Incidents of this type are not new to Alabama or governmental agencies.

While the county does have cyber security measures in place, these may not block every possible intrusion. The county also has record backups in place.

Parnell said the incident was discovered early on the morning of July 7 when employees noticed “their computers were not functioning normally. They were sluggish, and some of their applications looked different.”

Employees notified the local IT team, which shut down the internal system.

What files may have been impacted and to what extent is unknown.

The County Commission has contacted the service group that handles the county’s insurance fund cyber policy.

“We have a cyber policy in place, and (they) have hired a firm of professional IT people out of New York that is going to come in and assess the system,” Parnell said.

This assessment will determine any files that may have been accessed during the incident and if these files were moved.

“What we will really get is a full forensic view of what has been going on with our system,” Parnell said.

The report will also include recommendations for the future.

“We want to ensure the integrity of our system before we open it back up,” Parnell said.

He said the county is proceeding with “an abundance of caution” as it relates to this issue.

Just when all of the county systems will be fully operational is unknown at this time.