Breach Notification , Endpoint Security , Fraud Management & Cybercrime

Kansas Supreme Court Probes Potential Ransomware Attack

Electronic Filing and Payments Offline as Courts Revert to Paper Records and Faxes
Kansas Supreme Court Probes Potential Ransomware Attack
The Kansas Supreme Court Judicial Center in Topeka, Kansas (Image: Shutterstock)

The Kansas Supreme Court said it is probing a "security incident" that disrupted access to IT systems also used by the state's Court of Appeals and every District Court but one, leaving them unable to accept electronic filing of documents or process some cases.

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Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Marla Luckert on Thursday issued an administrative order declaring that electronic filing of documents to many courts across the state would be suspended until Sunday, due to unspecified "network issues" affecting IT systems.

"The Supreme Court took this action to give the judicial branch time to examine a security incident that has disrupted access to court systems," the court said in a statement.

"Courts will remain open and continue to operate, but documents cannot be submitted to the court through the Kansas courts' e-filing system," the statement said.

"It's an appropriate next step in a situation like this to define the extent to which our systems are affected," Luckert said in a statement released Friday. "We've called in experts to continue that process, and I'm grateful for the number of people who have reached out to us with offers of support."

The Supreme Court said Luckert plans to issue an updated administrative order on Monday.

The IT issues affect the state Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, as well as every one of the state's District Courts - spread across 31 judicial districts - except for the one based in Johnson County, which operates its own e-filing and case management system.

The IT outage is due to an "unauthorized incursion" into a new electronic records system and potentially involves ransomware, Kansas District Judge Philip Journey told ABC affiliate KAKE on Sunday. He said the state's courts will likely be forced to use paper-based backup approaches for at least the next two weeks.

While electronic filing of court documents across the state remains suspended, all documents can be filed in person on paper or via fax, "unless the filing requires a payment," according to Luckert's administrative order. Courts cannot accept any digital payments, including credit card payments.

"A party whose filing is untimely due to the unavailability of the electronic filing systems may seek relief from the applicable court," according to her order.

While all of the courts are remaining open for business, access to multiple systems has been disrupted for both court employees and members of the public. Currently inaccessible systems include the Kansas eCourt case management system, which District Courts use to process cases; systems that allow the public to search for court case information or for attorneys by their name or bar number; and the state's online marriage license application portal, meaning anyone who wants a marriage license must apply in person at a courthouse, using a paper form.

City of Topeka Also Disrupted

Separately, the state's capital city, Topeka, warned that its municipal court as well as its probation and prosecution divisions will be closed to the public on Monday.

"The closure is out of an abundance of caution, and will allow the city to investigate possible security concerns with one of the court's systems," the city said in a Sunday statement, promising further updates by Monday afternoon. "During the closure, no in-person dockets or trials will be held, and walk-ins will not be accepted at the court or at the probation and prosecution divisions."

The city added that "at this time, it is unknown if the possible security concern is associated with the Kansas Supreme Court's network security incident."

About the Author

Mathew J. Schwartz

Mathew J. Schwartz

Executive Editor, DataBreachToday & Europe, ISMG

Schwartz is an award-winning journalist with two decades of experience in magazines, newspapers and electronic media. He has covered the information security and privacy sector throughout his career. Before joining Information Security Media Group in 2014, where he now serves as the executive editor, DataBreachToday and for European news coverage, Schwartz was the information security beat reporter for InformationWeek and a frequent contributor to DarkReading, among other publications. He lives in Scotland.

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