Data breach in Wyandotte County may be ransomware attack

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A mid-April attack on Wyandotte County’s computer systems continues to cripple key services in the county — including the court system.

FOX4 News has learned the breach may be a ransomware attack — similar to others where the victims ultimately pay the attackers to free up their locked down systems. Victims are often faced with either paying high sums of money or losing access to their records and computers.

On Wednesday, FOX4 asked leaders with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, if this security breach is a ransomware attack, as we’ve been told. However, county spokespeople refused to address the randomware topic directly, saying only the effort to repair the trouble continues.

Concerns surrounding the attack came to light on the weekend of April 17. Last Tuesday, KCK Mayor Tyrone Garner said he’d become aware of the trouble on Easter weekend.

Garner and Brett Deichler, the county’s clerk, told FOX4 they were confident county information technology staffers had this under control, and there was no need to panic.

The latest update from county leaders came on Tuesday afternoon. The list of areas affected by this digital concern has grown slightly from last week. The list of affected areas now includes these Wyandotte County departments:

Delinquent Real Estate
-District Attorney
-District Court
Human Resources
-Motor Vehicles
Neighborhood Resource Center
Sheriff’s Office

Attorneys have complained to FOX4 that precautionary computer system shutdowns at the county courthouse are limiting the ability to conduct speedy trials, which is a constitutional right. Many hearings are still being conducted via Zoom.

“Lots of the assistants and the judges can’t look up on the computer system their docket or what they have scheduled or when they have it scheduled. Those are the things that cause concern,” Gary Stone, a criminal defense attorney, said Wednesday.

“If the court can’t find people who are supposed to be on that Zoom hearing, it’s going to be difficult for a docket of between 10 and 100 people to be present during one of those electronic hearings. “

Information technology staffers with the city of Atlanta, Georgia, were hit by a notable ransomware attack in 2018. Published reports show is cost that city’s leaders more than $2.6 million to pay the attackers, or risk losing their records and hardware.

The Department of Homeland Defense and the FBI are involved in assisting Wyandotte County leaders with this attack. When FOX4 contacted them earlier this week, their spokespeople referred our questions back to the Unified Government. It remains unclear what progress county leaders have made.

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