Philly courts website is finally back after ‘not Russian’ virus attack

Three key electronic services have yet to return.

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Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY
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Update, July 1: The First Judicial District announced that e-filing has been restored for civil court and orphan’s court.

Parts of the Philadelphia court system’s website were restored Wednesday, more than a month after being infected by a virus. The virus did not originate in Russia, officials said, after hinting at that possibility to the Inquirer last week.

 

So it’s still not clear who is responsible for the malware attack that hit the First Judicial District around May 21. The breach caused officials to quarantine their email accounts and other online services. A court spokesperson told Billy Penn on Wednesday that no additional information on the attack’s source would be released until everything is completely fixed.

For now, the courts.phila.gov website is mostly back up and running — save for three key portals whose absence has caused numerous headaches since the blackout five weeks ago.

The three unrestored services (and recommended workarounds) are:

  • The e-filing system: This allows attorneys and other people involved in the legal system to remotely file paperwork for cases. For now, here’s how where to continue filing in person.
  • The e-jury reporting system. If you need to report to or request a deferral for jury duty, continue to call 215-683-7170. Have your jury summons handy to type in your juror number.
  • Remote access to civil case dockets. For those who need to pull up court records, the First Judicial District still has extra computer terminals open in Rooms 205 and 310 of the Stout Center for Criminal Justice.

Staff email accounts for the First Judicial District came back online several weeks ago, as did various e-payment systems for fines. A court spokesperson said the remaining online public information portals should be restored “soon.” FJD court administrator Joseph H. Evers told the Inquirer last Friday that they should be up by the end of this week.

‘It’s not Russian’

Evers caused a stir last week when he said that the digital address tied to the virus may have been traced to Russia. The following day, other officials quickly backed off that claim.

Mark Wheeler, chief IT officer for the Kenney administration, said last week the hunt for the hacker continues. FBI investigators had tracked the virus to its IP address source, but “it’s not Russian,” Wheeler told the Inquirer.

The courts awarded Montgomery County-based security firm SoluStaff a $60,000 contract to toughen the court system’s digital defenses, Evres wrote in a letter obtained by the Inquirer.  The courts had previously refused to identify the name of the vendor, citing cybersecurity concerns.

Philly officials continue to maintain that it was not a ransomware attack — like those that have crippled other U.S. cities and caused millions in damages. Evers wrote to senior court officials that there had been “absolutely no indication of a breach of court data,” according to the Inquirer.

Pressed for additional details on the attack, courts spokesperson Gabe Roberts told Billy Penn more information would be released once the systems reached full health.

Said Roberts: “We’re going to wait until we’re 100 percent back until we start discussing that.”

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