Courts news

Ten days after a hacker attack hobbled Georgia’s eCourt case management network, there’s no relief in sight for Floyd County and other jurisdictions that depend on the system.

“Since our IT team still is unable to give us a timeline for eCourt’s restoration, we have advised them to go to a paper system for the time being,” said Bruce Shaw, spokesman for the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.

While there are reports that a foreign government launched the malware that infected the system on July 1 – and encrypted all the files – federal and state security experts are not making public statements about the threat.

The AOC also is not releasing a list of the courts and applications affected, “to decrease the possibility of interference or adding to the knowledge base of bad actors,” Shaw said in a statement.

However, Floyd County officials know they’re at the epicenter. Clerk of Courts Barbara Penson said her office had just finished transferring all records to the eCourt system on Feb. 2. The new software, equipment and training was provided free from the state in exchange for being one of the pilot agencies.

“All of a sudden, wham,” Penson said Tuesday. “We came in that Monday morning, the first of July, and nobody could log in ... When I finally got in touch with them, the project manager said ‘It’s not good.’”

Penson said her office has started transferring five months worth of case files back to the old, late 1990s-era, Sustain system.

“We have a monumental task ahead of us,” she said. “It will slow us down, but we will have court in Floyd County.”

The eCourt attack is also affecting the county’s Magistrate and Juvenile courts. On Monday, the AOC posted an online child support calculator to replace the program no longer accessible to the courts.

Penson said some of the staff in the Superior Court judges’ offices are helping her staff with priority items. Documents such as notices and subpoenas must, by law, be sent at least 10 days before a hearing.

Floyd County Superior Court Judge Jack Niedrach said they’re having to use hard-copy files like they did before computerized filing systems were put in.

“Something came across my desk and when I had to look up what had been previously filed I had to go downstairs to physically pull the file,” Niedrach said.

Court personnel get updates from the AOC but there’s nothing concrete on when, or if, the system may be back up and running.“No promises,” Niedrach said.

Penson said the latest update indicated that federal and state security officials are completing their threat assessment but an expected request for ransom — to de-encrypt the data — has not come.

Executive Editor John Bailey contributed to this report.

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