Crime & Courts

Unidentified cyberattackers force Alaska Court System to disconnect from internet

JUNEAU — A cyberattack has caused the Alaska Court System to disconnect most of its operations from the internet, an act expected to block electronic court filings, disrupt online payments and prevent hearings from taking place by videoconference for several days.

The Courtview system used to look up court records has been taken offline, as has the court system’s website.

“I think for a few days, there may may be some inconveniences, there may be some hearings that are canceled, or some judges who decide to shift from videoconference to teleconference proceedings or the like. We don’t have all of that figured out yet,” said Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger, the court system’s top administrative officer.

The scope of the problem wasn’t immediately clear, he said Saturday night. In a written statement, the court system said it “does not believe any confidential court documents or employee information has been compromised, but (it) will promptly notify any affected individuals if that occurs.”

Bolger said court officials noticed “anomalies in certain servers and personal computers” on Thursday and hired a specialist Friday.

“Today, we were advised that there did appear to be some attempts to infiltrate the court system’s computer system. And so we figured out a way to disconnect from the internet to stop the problem to prevent anyone from continuing to try to tinker with our network,” he said.

Bolger said it wasn’t immediately clear whether the attackers were seeking information — as in last year’s attack on the Alaska Division of Elections — or if they were seeking money, as with the 2018 ransomware attack against the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

“I think we caught this in the very early stages. I don’t know that motivation of the actors,” he said.

He declined to discuss how the attack was discovered or the precise location of the computers that were infected with malware but said that so far, only a “handful” of about 3,000 court system computers are affected.

He said that as the situation develops, the court system will post updates on its Facebook page and its Twitter account. Courthouse phone numbers are still working.

“I don’t think we’re in any further danger from outside influences. It’s just a matter of assessing the damage to our own system and repairing that. And I think that will take several days,” Bolger said.

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