PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Officials are battling a possible cyber attack on Philadelphia’s judicial website. In addition to creating headaches for employees, it’s causing some delays and confusion for those who access the courts.
“We’ve been told there’s no end in sight as of right now,” criminal defense attorney Brian Fishman said.
There is anxiety and agitation as a cyber shutdown hits its second week for Philadelphia’s courts. Last Thursday, officials with the First Judicial District announced that a computer virus forced them to take the courts’ website, electronic filing system and employee emails offline.
Courtrooms, offices and most phone lines continue to operate, but the digital dilemma has certainly slowed down the wheels of justice.
“I have expungements sitting on my desk, I can’t file them. If I can’t file them, I can’t get hearing dates, and if I can’t get hearing dates, I can’t get these things removed from people’s records – which ultimately takes someone longer to apply for a job, to get housing, and things like that,” Fishman said.
Court officials have released very little details about what’s going on with the computer system other than to say it’s related to a malware and not a ransomware wire virus. That would mean hackers want money to release control of the system.
Baltimore’s city government is currently in the midst of a three-week long ransomware attack that officials say could cost $18 million to restore. Atlanta had the same thing happen last year.
Experts say sophisticated viruses available on the dark web are particularly effective on local government information systems, which often use outdated technology. Philadelphia courts deny this is the case, but something is going on.
From jurors to law professionals, to those with ongoing cases, the longer it takes to restore the system, the more people who are negatively affected.
“It makes all of our jobs harder and I really feel for the court personnel as well. And I think that the city has to determine that they will allocate the resources to fix this problem right away,” private investigator Noel Hanrahan said.
While court officials continue to characterize the computer system shutdown as a virus intrusion and not a ransomware attack, jurors are expected to report as scheduled.
For more info see below:
Jurors who received a summons to report for service at the Stout Center for Criminal Justice, or City Hall, are expected to report as scheduled. If you have questions about your service while our web system is down, please call (215) 683-7170 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. to speak with a member of the Jury Commission.
Civil, Criminal, and Family Court filings will continue to be accepted over the counter at the following locations:
Criminal filings: 2nd floor, Stout Center for Criminal Justice
Common Pleas Civil filings: 296, City Hall
Municipal Court Civil filings: Widener Building (1339 Chestnut Street), 10th floor
Family Court filings: 1501 Market Street, 8th and 11th floors