WILKES-BARRE — Some Luzerne County government offices marked their second week with limited or no computer access to essential programs Tuesday due to a cyber attack, including the busy assessor’s department.
County Administrative Services Division Head David Parsnik estimated Tuesday about 65 to 70 percent of access to computer programs has been restored outside of Children and Youth and other human service branches.
Efforts to bring remaining software applications back on line were hampered Tuesday by a network issue that slowed programs running on the system, Parsnik said. The administration shut down the main network at 3:30 p.m. to address that problem, he said.
The county’s network monitoring system had detected the cyber attack May 25 during the Memorial Day weekend. In response, the administration shut down the main courthouse network — both servers and work stations — to prevent the virus from spreading and later called in a consultant to help diagnose and fix the problem.
One of the most pressing programs yet to be restored is a real estate appraisal database central to daily operations in the assessor’s office.
Without this database, assessor’s staffers have been unable to update property information, assessed values and ownership changes.
The office also needs the database to complete property identification number, or PIN, certifications required for a myriad of real estate transactions to be officially completed and recorded in the deeds office, including property sales and transfers and mortgage initiations and satisfactions, officials said.
Parsnik told county council Tuesday night the assessor’s database should be fully operational Wednesday.
In case implementation is delayed, the assessor’s office has canceled approximately 35 tax assessment appeal hearings scheduled for June 13, the county website said. They will be rescheduled at a later date, the site says.
An upcoming June mortgage foreclosure sheriff’s sale also may be continued due to the backlog in PIN certifications, which are required for these auctions, officials said.
The assessor’s office has been time-stamping pending PIN certification requests so they can be processed in the order they were received after access is restored.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Parsnik provided council with a rundown on computer access in each department. Several programs were set for reactivation Wednesday, but some human service branch programs won’t be addressed until Friday or the weekend, he said.
The administration is in the process of resolving some issues with the correctional system’s offender management system, which tracks a range of information on inmates, including their release dates, commissary accounts and meetings, Parsnik said.
Councilman Stephen A. Urban asked if any inmates were incarnated longer than necessary or subjected to violations of their rights due to the computer issues. “No sir,” Correctional Services Division Head Mark Rockovich said in reply.
Urban also asked Parsnik if he has traced the origin of the attack and whether it came in through an email attachment as originally speculated.
Parsnik said he won’t have those answers until a forensic analysis is completed by its consultant, New York City-based Arete Advisors, and a law firm also retained under the county’s cyber risk insurance policy, which contains a $10,000 deductible.
The FBI and local law enforcement also have been notified of the attack, Parsnik told council.
Arete plans to start the forensic analysis next week and should be on site several more weeks working on its investigation and any lingering service restoration issues, Parsnik said.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.