Alaska courts disconnect online services after cyberattack

A person at a window counter
The front desk at the clerk’s office in the Dimond Courthouse in Juneau on April 22, 2019. (Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Alaska’s court system was forced to disconnect its online services over the weekend after discovering a cyber attacker had tried to insert malware on court computers. 

That means that court filings, court record searches, and payments of fines aren’t currently accessible online. It also means online court hearings scheduled over the next few days will take place over the phone. 

Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger said IT employees first noticed minor anomalies on a handful of the court’s approximately 3,000 computers on Thursday. A cybersecurity team looked into it and recommended the system disconnect from the internet on Saturday around noon. There’s no indication that any private data — credit card numbers, for example — were stolen. 

That leaves the motivations unclear until an investigation is concluded. 

“I can only speculate. A foreign actor sometimes seeks to discredit public institutions. If they could manipulate our operations or our data in some way, they might want to find some profit in that,” he said. 

He said the FBI and other state law enforcement agencies have been informed about the attack. 

It’s not yet clear how long the disruption to services will last, said Bolger, but he expects it to be resolved within a few days. 

“I don’t have a better estimate than that. We’re still in the process of assessing the problem. And after that is done, we will, of course, clean our network of whatever kind of malware that we discover, and come back online as soon as we can,” said Bolger. 

For those with court hearings scheduled for the next few days, Bolger said they should contact their local court system for updates on how their hearings will be held. 

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