DA: Ransomware attack brings criminal justice system to halt

DA: Ransomware attack brings criminal justice system to halt

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - As Montgomery County Officials work around the clock to fight a ransomware attack that shut down the county's servers, criminal prosecutions are locked down too.

"It has brought the criminal justice system, at least as far as our part is concerned, to a screeching halt," stated Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey.

Friday, Montgomery County's Chief IT Officer, Lou Ialacci reported the backup data may be in jeopardy, wiping out all county data with the exception of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office and Revenue.

A serious blow to the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office that operates on a paperless system.

"We have to have the computer system and access to our files in order to do our work," Bailey explained. "Effectively this is shutting down the criminal justice system."

The state's court system is on a different server, controlled by the Administrative Office of Courts. For Bailey, the missing data consists of decades of case files, criminal histories, investigation reports, and notes for all prosecutions.

"This is a frightening thought," stated Bailey. "This is a terrorist attack that's been perpetuated on Montgomery County."

If the files are not recovered by the county, Bailey says his office will work to mitigate the loss.

"We are working through that process," explained Bailey. "We are talking literally thousands and thousands of files. We have taken all our old paper files and loaded into the computer system. I have been in this office for 20 years, I've got 20 years of files and word documents and things on my computer, I tried to access them out of frustration the other day because I needed a word document, and I couldn't get on to Microsoft word."

Aside from attempting to recreate the files, the greater concern is the subsequent backlog it could cause in criminal prosecutions. This week, it's already impacted preparation and filings for grand jury proceedings. Bailey stated hundreds if not thousands of people are waiting for their case to be processed through grand jury proceedings.

"That backlog affects the criminal justice system," stated Bailey. "When we get over to court to try the cases, there will be no cases to try because the grand jury isn't processing the cases. There's going to be a huge impact on the criminal justice system."

Also, it could affect the ability to turn over discovery to defendants in criminal cases.

"In our business, the police give us things, we create things on our own, our investigators do some work and all of that is required to be turned over to the defendant so they can have a fair trial," Bailey explained. "There's somethings we may have had that we need to turn over, but we don't have them."

A sense of uncertainty looms as the county works through an unforeseen cyber-attack.

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.