Maryland county continues to deal with cybersecurity attack – Herald-Mail Media




The Thanksgiving Day cybersecurity incident on Washington County government continued to affect several local services Wednesday, with no announcement from the county yet as to when services could be fully restored.
Affected areas include prosecutors’ access to files, leading to requested postponements in some criminal matters, Washington County State’s Attorney Gina Cirincion said.
The county’s latest online update, provided late Tuesday, still noted that credit card payments for utility bills were being accepted by phone and the treasurer’s office was taking real estate and personal property tax payments as well as utility payments if they were being paid via check.
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The county launched an alternate website on Tuesday that provides some workarounds regarding paying bills and applying for nonprofit assistance and community organization grants as well as mentioning that certain services, like processing and issuing permits, were still unavailable.
The county attorney and county spokeswoman could not immediately be reached Wednesday afternoon for an update on the cybersecurity incident and when services and access to information is expected to be fully restored.
Emergency 911 calls can still be made, the alternate county site states.
Sheriff Doug Mullendore referred questions about how the cybersecurity breach was affecting his office’s functions to the county’s public relations department.
Messages to the county spokeswoman were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Hagerstown Police Chief Paul Kifer said Wednesday that the “regular citizenry” won’t see any changes in police response to calls.
Officers continue to receive dispatch calls through the radio system as they always do, but they don’t see the dispatch messages pop up on the computer screens in their patrols cars, Kifer said. They’re just missing the visual message.
“Citizens don’t have anything to worry about. We’re responding,” Kifer said. “We can do the job we need to do even with this issue with the county.”
The cybersecurity incident also is affecting how officers write reports though there is a workaround, using an older computerized system, Kifer said.
“It’s not necessarily as efficient as it was before,” Kifer said.
Officers can still do checks on vehicle tags and suspicious people because that database is run through a state system, Kifer said.
In Washington County Circuit Court on Thursday morning, Judge Andrew F. Wilkinson apologized to a defense attorney who drove in from Baltimore and didn’t find out about the breach until she arrived.
“It really is a massive computer breach that has really handcuffed the state’s attorney’s office,” Wilkinson said as an attempted murder case was continued to a later date.
Cirincion said Wednesday that her office is requesting postponements for some cases because prosecutors cannot access their files due to the cybersecurity incident.
In fact, in Wilkinson’s courtroom Thursday, Assistant State’s Attorney Chris McCormack asked the judge to continue several cases because case files were inaccessible.
The delays come at a time when the state’s attorney’s office was already dealing with a backlog of cases due to COVID-19 pandemic-related postponements.
Not all cases are being postponed. If a prosecutor had printed what they needed for their case, they could proceed, Cirincion said.
On Tuesday afternoon, an assistant state’s attorney told a Washington County District Court judge she lacked computer access due to the county’s cybersecurity incident, but she was able to proceed that day with an animal cruelty trial.
Cirincion said her office couldn’t access its files, a Laserfiche respository normally accessed via computer. The office’s case management system also was down, which meant prosecutors couldn’t get to documents such as police reports, charging documents, notes from meetings with witnesses, and restitution information.
Thanks to the office’s director of victim/witness services, Jill Ritter, keeping a card file for every case, officials were contacting victims and witnesses to notify them of postponed cases, Cirincion said.
Cirincion said this is the first time she could recall in her almost 30 years with the county state’s attorney’s office that it lost access to files due to a cybersecurity incident.
Washington County Health Department officials have not seen any effect due to the county’s cyber incident, spokeswoman Joelle Butler wrote in an email Wednesday.
Washington County Public Schools has not been affected by the cybersecurity incident, spokesperson Erin Anderson said Tuesday afternoon.
County elections Deputy Director Barry Jackson said the incident had no effect on election administration as the elections database is on a separate network. However, the elections board’s internet and office files are maintained by the county, meaning they were impacted.
“We had to do a workaround to be able to get onto email and access our files,” he said in an email Thursday.

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CyberTelugu

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