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Tag office set to reopen

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Chilton County Tag Office is up and running, although still closed to the public.

If all goes as planned, the office should be open to the public again by July 28.

According to a social media post by the department, online tag renewal should be accessible by 4 p.m. on July 24.

Chilton County Commission Chairman Joseph Parnell said the department’s system has recovered from the cyber intrusion that resulted in the county’s entire network of computers being shut down.

He said staff are working to catchup on processing tag requests that had been submitted by mail.

“They had about 2,000 requests from mail-ins over the period of time we were closed,” Parnell said. “They began at about noon on Tuesday working through that.”

Parnell said getting the tag office up was the first priority for rebuilding the system.

Departments that use the county’s network were shut down when a ransomware intrusion was detected. IT specialists in New York are looking into what happened and compiling a report for county leaders. Parnell said a final report has not been presented yet.

“We feel very good about the path we took in not paying the ransom,” Parnell said. “We are very fortunate that our IT people collectively have been able to navigate and get us back into a position where we are going to be operational without having had to pay the ransom payment.”

In the cyber intrusion, computers were locked out of accessing files. A ransom was then asked in exchange for access. Whether any of the county’s files were downloaded from the county computer network is yet to be determined.

“Our initial assessment of that from our IT advisory group was that they did not think that any data was extracted from our system,” Parnell said.

The report from the IT group should give the county a final answer on this.

Much of the data has been recovered from backups the county had made.

Next on the priority list of departments to get back up and running is the probate office. This office should also be open to the public by July 27.

About 95% of the data the department had was able to be recovered from a backup. Parnell said what is missing was copies of paperwork, not the transaction details.

Getting all departments back to normal operations has been delayed because of hardware components being on backorder. Some components may not be available for at least another week.

“It is taking a little longer than we had initially anticipated,” Parnell said.

The goal is to have at least one or two computers up and running in every department by July 27.

“We were able to recover all of the financial records for the county,” Parnell said. “We had those backed up in a way that we didn’t lose anything from them.”

Judicial offices on the third floor of the courthouse were not impacted by the incident.

Parnell said he was grateful to the county’s IT team for keeping this incident from being worse.

Steps have already been taken to increase the strength of the county’s computer network to keep such an intrusion from happening again.