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What’s the fallout from Pa. court system cyber attack?


Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that some operations were restored late Monday afternoon.

Late Monday afternoon, the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, Debra Todd, said portions of the state’s court systems, which had been hit by a morning cyber attack, were restored.

The PACFile, GTS, web dockets and court summaries, and PAePay are back online, Todd’s office said, in a statement. “Our court information technology and executive team continues to work closely with the FBI and Homeland Security to analyze and investigate the cyber attack. Work also continues to further assess and address website services which are not yet accessible,” said Todd.

“While there is still no indication that any court data has been compromised, we appreciate the patience and cooperation of the public, media and legal professionals as we work to bring the entire website back online. We reiterate that, amid this event, the courts have remained open and accessible.”

Monday’s cyber attack on Pennsylvania’s court system interrupted attorneys’ ability to electronically file some documents; manage, track and submit reports related to guardianships and incapacitated individuals; and more.

“Our court information technology and executive team is working closely with law enforcement including the CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I to investigate the incident,” said Todd.

“There is still no indication that any court data was compromised, and our courts will remain open and accessible to the public,” said Todd, in a mid-afternoon statement Monday.

The cyber attack came in the form of a “denial of service.” Such an attack, officials said, “occurs when malicious actors flood the targeted host or network with traffic until the target can’t respond or simply crashes, preventing access for legitimate users.”

Stephen D. Watson, the district court administrator, Seventh Judicial District, which oversees Bucks County’s Court of Common Pleas, said there has been “minimal impact” in the district.

“We are thankful that generally speaking there was minimal impact to internal Court operations, defined as case access and scheduling, as a result of the attack,” Watson said in a Monday email.

“At minimum the ability to file and pay electronically in criminal matters is still down, as is the public-facing UJS website. Our common pleas court and magisterial district court electronic case management systems (CPCMS and MDJS, respectively) were restored before 9 a.m. this morning.”

He referred all other questions to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

The AOPC detailed the impact of the most recent cyber attack on the following publicly available systems:

1. PACFile — The Pennsylvania Appellate Court (PAC) electronic filing system is used by attorneys and pro se litigants to electronically file documents with the appellate courts and some courts of common pleas (criminal and/or juvenile divisions). While PACFile is not available, filing offices remain open to accept filings in person or by mail.

2. GTS — The Guardianship Tracking System is a web-based application used by court-appointed guardians, orphans’ court clerks, court staff and judges to file, manage, track and submit reports related to the guardianships of incapacitated persons. While the GTS system is not available, filing offices remain open to accept filings in person or by mail.

3. Web Dockets/court summaries — These documents are available online for free to anyone with internet access to view information about a case filed in the appellate courts, the criminal division of the courts of common pleas, as well as the magisterial district courts. While these documents are currently unavailable online, filing offices remain open to accept filings in person or by mail.

4. PAePay — Facilitates online payments for cases with outstanding fines, costs and restitution in criminal and summary matters; bail; fees associated with the annual attorney registration and bar application; probation and parole fees; and Guardianship Tracking System (GTS) fees. While the PAePay system is not available, payments can still be made by mail, in-person or by contacting the court office to inquire about alternative payment methods.

5. Some pages on UJS Website — Those interested in court documents and information should contact the Pennsylvania Courts spokeswoman Stacey Witalec at 717-877-2997.These include appellate court home page and court opinions, news and statistics, public interest pages.

The AOPC detailed the impact of the most recent cyber attack on the following systems that are available to court personnel and law enforcement:

1. JNET — Warrant information remains available to law enforcement through NCIC and CLEAN.

2. Police Forms (complaint and search warrants) and Citations — Law enforcement forms, such as criminal complaint and search warrant applications, remain available at the appropriate court filing office.

Last week, a ransomware attack hit Bucks County’s Emergency Operations Center.