Tech Troubles Continue in Luzerne County, Pa., Departments

The May 25 cyberattack that forced county systems offline is continuing to give IT staff trouble. Currently, the real-estate assessment database, coroner’s office and court are reportedly experiencing technical issues.

by Eric Mark, The Citizens' Voice / June 25, 2019
Shutterstock/isak55

(TNS) — One crucial database still out of service, sheriff’s sales postponed and limited computer access in at least one county department.

That was the scorecard Monday as Luzerne County continues its slow recovery from a cyberattack that forced officials to shut down much of the county computer network four weeks ago.

A real-estate assessment database vital to the operations of the assessment and recorder of deeds offices had still not been restored as of Monday evening, according to county Manager David Pedri.

County information technology workers and consultants have encountered numerous technical difficulties in restoring the database, which contains records of more than 100,000 properties throughout the county.

Lack of access to the database effectively shut down the assessor’s office and left much of the local real estate industry in limbo, with deed searches unavailable.

Last week, the county found a workaround to allow the recording of deeds using another software program. Employees of the deeds office worked over the weekend to reduce the backlog that had built up over three weeks, Pedri said. That backlog is “rapidly shrinking” but not yet eliminated, he said.

Also, sheriff’s sales have been rescheduled to Aug. 2, according to Pedri.

Computer problems persist in the coroner’s office, though they should be resolved in a day or two, Pedri said.

The office is able to perform its daily operations and duties, but records older than six months need to be retrieved from archives, which might take additional time, he said.

Pedri said he was informed of issues in the coroner’s office Monday. A woman seeking information about her deceased brother, who died last year, said last week that the coroner’s office was unable to provide needed records.

Also last week, a woman told a reporter that a detective in the district attorney’s office was unable to proceed with a case in which she was involved because of the computer outage.

Pedri on Monday said he had no information about that. District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis could not be reached for comment.

County council Chairman Tim McGinley said he will ask Pedri to provide an update on the cyberattack at tonight’s council meeting.

“There are a lot of questions to be answered,” McGinley said.

The county’s computer monitoring service discovered on May 25 that some computers in the county network had been infected by a virus. Officials shut down most of the system to prevent the virus from spreading. They have spent the past month rebuilding and restoring the network.

The county hired the computer security firm Arete Advisors to assist with the restoration effort and a forensic investigation that is expected to begin soon.

©2019 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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