Alaska court system offline after cybersecurity incident

May 6, 2021 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court on Thursday said the court system did not receive a ransom demand or any direct message from those involved in a cybersecurity attack last week that resulted in the system disconnecting its online services.

“So we feel fortunate that we caught this attack at an early stage,” Chief Justice Joel Bolger told The Associated Press in an interview.

The court system, in a news release Saturday, said it had disconnected online services to remove malware from its servers and was working with a cybersecurity company to respond to the incident and prevent “any further system breaches.”

Services remained offline Thursday.

The disruption has affected the public’s ability to email court email addresses, including for filing documents; view cases online; or participate in hearings via videoconference, according to the court system.

Bolger said it was unclear when services would be back online but said it “probably will be several days” and that an announcement would be made when online services are set to resume.

He said court hearings and trials were taking place but if they were scheduled for a videoconference, for example, they were moving to teleconference or in-person proceedings.

“As far as I know, the courts are scrambling a bit but they’re trying to just continue with business as they can do it without the internet,” he said.

Bolger said the motive behind the attack was unclear. He said it was first detected April 29, when there were indications that there was “someone who was attacking our system and trying to assert control.”

He declined to go into detail, citing an ongoing review, but said it was enough to concern the technology department and prompt it to engage a security contractor.

“No personal data was stolen or compromised as far as we know,” Bolger said.

He said relevant state and federal agencies have been notified of the incident.

The Alaska Supreme Court extended until Tuesday deadlines for filings and for fines payable through the court system that were due between May 3 and May 10 unless a judge or court overseeing a matter sets an earlier deadline.

The Supreme Court, in a recent order, also said Bolger could “relax and suspend court rules as necessary to respond to these circumstances.”

Bolger said he was sorry this was “causing a temporary inconvenience for the public but that we will not connect to the internet again until we can be assured that it’s safe to do so.”