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Cyber Attack Continues to Impact Local Records Offices

(TNS) — The Onondaga County Clerk’s office is back offline again as its computer management system vendor struggles to restore services for the county and hundreds of other governments across the nation after a cyber attack.

Onondaga County Clerk Lisa Dell said the county can’t record house closings, deeds or mortgages because they can’t search last minute judgements or a lien on a property. New businesses can’t be taken in because the office can’t search the system to see if there are other businesses with a similar name.

“That’s greatly impacting those customers and obviously impacting us because we can’t record that for them and we can’t really do that manually,” Dell said. “Customers can come in and search our physical copies of judgments, liens, deeds, so forth mortgages, the ones that we do have in file or on film, but if it’s anything recent, they can’t come and search that because of our system being down.”

The clerk’s office and its customers can’t access records that were put into the systems after August 2017 because the documents are processed electronically, she said.

Dell said she hopes the system will be back up by Friday, but will continue to update customers on the county clerk’s site.

The issue also affects the county’s court records system, but court documents can still be accessed through the state website.

Dell said the office is able to provide index numbers and additional information to the district attorney’s office manually when the DA’s office gets a new case.

“For new court cases we just have a spreadsheet of all our index numbers, and we’re crossing them off and when our system comes back up, we’ll just manually enter all this information and scan and link any documents that we took in,” Dell said.

Cott Systems Inc., the third-party vendor, notified the clerk’s office on Dec. 26 that it detected potentially malicious files and shut down all of its servers to find the source of the problem.

Cott serves about 400 local governments across 21 states.

The vendor said it found it was a target of an organized cyber attack. Cott has since contacted the FBI. The federal authorities have been investigating the group responsible for the attack, according to Cott .

Onondaga County’s system came back in the middle of last week before being taken offline again by Cott.

The county received a customers notice from Cott on Thursday that said Cott’s infrastructure had gone into “protective mode” to preserve data, resulting in storage capacity.

In a message to Onondaga County and other customers Sunday, Cott said that a combination of everyone continuing online services at once and their cyber recovery steps continuing to run overloaded their system.

Cott said they have an automatic data protection program that activates once their servers reach capacity. They later told customers that operations will be “locked down” in this protective mode until they install additional storage.

Cott said the use of the storage space was unplanned and the outage is not directly because of the cyber attack but rather the company’s ongoing forensic procedures and investigation.

Cott Chief Exexutive Officer Deborah Ball told customers in the update that she would love to tell customers Sunday that all systems are ready to go and that the company was working to restore all services through the weekend so that offices and Cott’s operation will be back online Monday.

A customer update on Sunday, however, informed customers that it may be a longer wait.

Staff writer Darian Stevenson covers breaking news, crime and public safety. Have a tip, a story idea, a question or a comment? You can reach her at dstevenson@syracuse.com

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