A public records request led to the discovery of a malicious computer virus attached to files within the Pinal County Attorney’s Office case management database.
Last week, PCAO employees working on a records request became aware of the infected files and immediately notified Pinal County’s main IT department.
This virus, known as CryptoLocker, essentially infects and encrypts files until the user pays a ransom to unlock them. Thus, employees cannot access any infected files.
The original CryptoLocker ransomware was first posted on the Internet in 2013. It was isolated in 2014, and an online tool was created to allow victims to recover files without paying a ransom. Since then several clones and similarly named viruses have continued to propagate.
Due to the virus, PCAO’s ability to respond to some public records requests has been slowed until the issue can be resolved and the county confirms security of PCAO’s computers.
“The antivirus software utilized by the county was completely useless in protecting our data stored on county servers,” said Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles. “Now, our office’s IT department must work to repair the damage to our data files. I am frustrated by the lack of communication from the county. If we knew that the software was inadequate, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office could have taken action to prevent this from happening to our case files. Other county departments need to be aware of this issue and take necessary precautions.”
It is unknown how many files have been infected or how the county network received the virus, but PCAO is working to restore all known, infected case files and determine a solution to prevent this from happening again.