Floyd County Clerk of Superior Court Barbara Penson believes there is light at the end of the tunnel. She’s not sure that she sees the light yet, but is confident it is there. Since a malware ransom attack that struck the Georgia courts software system the last week of June, Penson and her staff have been working tirelessly to reenter five months of court records into an old software system, Sustain, which cannot be supported if it were to go down.
Before the malware ransom attack at the first of February, Penson’s staff had been working for close to a year to enter years and years of court records into the new eCourt system, which is a web-based software that was going to make access much easier for everyone who needed access to official court records such as lawyers, court personnel in other jurisdictions and the like. Unfortunately, it also was accessed by hackers who encrypted and demanded ransom for access to every record that had been loaded into the system from Feb. 1 through June 29.
“We’re reverting to the old Sustain software,” Penson said. The Floyd County IT staff is the only support available to Penson and her staff for the old software. “We’re walking a tight line. If anything happens to the hardware component of the old system, it cannot be repaired because there is no support for it,” Penson said.
The work load has been incredible for employees in the clerk’s office.
“I don’t think we’ve had six Saturdays off in over a year,” Penson said. With the malware attack happening right after spending close to a year reentering the old records, Penson said she has lost several employees to other jobs. One left for a higher paying, less stressful position in another Floyd County government office, and Penson said all she could do was give the woman a high-five.
Where Penson goes from here is still up in the air. She does not know if the Administrative Office of the Courts and Journal Technologies Inc. will ultimately recommend a return to the eCourt system or not moving forward.
Penson said that without the advice from retired Chief Circuit Judge Walter Matthews — who wanted a paper copy of everything — who knows how many records, had they solely been saved digitally, would have been lost forever.
The clerk’s office staff, with assistance from the administrative staff assigned to each of the four Superior Court judges, have been manually pulling paper files for each case before court action takes place.
Aside from the workload on the staff, Penson said the malware attack has also caused a headache for employers across the country who are seeking background reports on individuals who have applied for jobs.
“We are heavily bombarded with those callers. It’s every day,” she said. “It’s a huge burden. People don’t even think about how many background checking companies there are across this country.”
Penson said some of those companies have been a little bit upset that records aren’t immediately available in this new age of instant computerized, digital information.
“I explain that we’ve lost five months of records and are reentering all of that plus all of the new work that’s coming in every day,” Penson said.
“It’s a race for us to put documents back on the Sustain software system, and then turn around and make sure the hard copies are all in the file before it hits a hearing calendar,” she said.
Penson said she hasn’t even begun to analyze what this is doing to her budget this year as far as overtime goes.
“We’re about halfway there.” That’s light, but it’s barely visible.