June 23, 2024

Kansas officials begin process of restoring court information access after ‘security incident’

This photo shows a computer terminal normally used by the public to access Kansas court records shut down, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, at the Shawnee County Courthouse in Topeka, Kan.. Most of the state's courts have been offline since Oct. 12, 2023, in what officials are calling a "security incident" that experts say has all the hallmarks of a ransomware attack. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly a month after a “security incident” with all the hallmarks of a ransomware attack, Kansas judicial officials are slowly renewing public access to court information. But for now, that access requires a trip to the state’s capital city.
The state’s judicial branch on Tuesday announced it has opened a public access service center at the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka. The center is staffed by judicial workers and includes 10 computer terminals. Appointments are required and the center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Appointment requests may be made online. The center is for searching case information only, and electronic payments cannot be made there, according to a news release from the state.
The release said efforts to bring the judicial branch systems back online will occur in phases and that no firm timeline has been established on when all functions will be fully restored.
The massive outage on Oct. 12 left attorneys unable to search online records and forced them to file motions the old fashioned way — on paper. The disruption has caused a huge slowdown of court operations across the state.
Since 2019, ransomware groups have targeted 18 state, city or municipal court systems, said analyst Allan Liska of the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. That includes one in Dallas, where some jury trials had to be canceled this year.
But state-focused attacks have been much less frequent, and have not rivaled what happened in Kansas.
State officials have released few details about the investigation. They have not said if the incident was determined to be malicious, or if there was a demand for ransom. A message left Wednesday with Judicial Branch spokeswoman Lisa Taylor was not immediately returned.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and federal authorities are looking into the incident, KBI spokesperson Melissa Underwood has said.