SALINE COUNTY, Ark. — One month ago, a cyber-attack crippled dozens of Arkansas counties and their online access. Monday, our station learned some offices are still offline.
Each affected county is using the company Apprentice Information Systems (AIS) for its servers.
In November our station confirmed at least 30 counties caught in what AIS is calling a “potential security breach”. It caused each affected office to go back to operating on pens and paper. Some even temporarily closed.
The Monday following the November 5 cyber attack, the Saline County Assessor’s Office could not be reached. “Unfortunately due to our servers being down, our offices are closed today,” its voicemail said.
On December 5, stacks and stacks of papers piling up for weeks are finally going into a computer system in Saline County or at least parts of Saline County.
“The Bryant office is completely down. They (AIS) said it may not be back up until the end of the year,” Ramona Phifer, Saline County Assessor’s Office Administrative Manager explained.
When we reached out to the Rogers-based tech company for comment Monday. A consultant handling media inquiries for the company said:
“Recently, a potential security breach was identified by Apprentice Information Systems which may have impacted some county government offices. Out of an abundance of caution, systems were brought offline for a prudent period to assess the threat and enact a plan to safely restore services.
Since this event occurred, many county offices have been brought back up, some within a few days, and some within a few weeks. A few offices have remained offline for various security reasons. However, the remainder are expected to be brought online in the coming days.
There is an ongoing forensic review being conducted by an internal team and by third parties. Proper law enforcement have been notified.”
-Doug Matayo, CEO, Standing Rock Consulting on behalf of Apprentice Information Systems Inc.
According to Phifer, on November 17, her office got two computers running. Friday, December 3, another three were reactivated. With almost half of their computers back online as of Monday, Ramona Phifer considers the Saline County Assessor’s Office lucky.
“We’ve heard that there were like 73 out of the 75 counties that were affected originally,” Phifer stated. “Everyone, Apprentice helps them in different ways.”
According to AIS’s website, the company provides software for assessors, collectors, clerks, and treasurers. They also have software for marriage records and website services. All deal with public information.
In November, White County Assessor Gail Snyder said the information inside the assessor’s office databases is public records, so she is uncertain what value there is in a cyber-attack.
Phifer said this is the worst time of year for this to happen because they are required by law to assess all property by the end of the year, and this has slowed them down tremendously.
“I’ve never known of anything like this to ever happen before. So it’s quite an ordeal to have to figure out how to do something we’ve never done before,” Phifer concluded.