Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner said the Potter County computers have been infected by three viruses.
According to Judge Tanner, it is possible the viruses have been in the county’s systems since February. However, no personal information went out because all of the files were encrypted.
“I’ve got probates still, we’re hearing all the cases,” Judge Tanner said. “We have the files. It’s just the problem that we can’t do anything online.”
Unfortunately, not all of the county’s files were backed up prior to the three viruses. That means those files are lost unless there are paper copies.
Judge Tanner said the viruses likely came from a phishing email.
“They put in the system for someone to think that it was probably something okay and they hit it, and it spread the viruses,” said Judge Tanner. “So, they may can save some stuff from maybe a week ago, but anything further back than that, they may not can retrieve.”
Those files include criminal files and mental health proceedings, which usually have a 72-hour timestamp.
We asked Judge Tanner if the viruses contained ransomware.
“We have not heard that. We have not. It would appear that they are, but we have not heard that.”
Andrew Brandt, Co-owner of Phone Medic of Amarillo, said if the viruses are ransomware, those files are essentially deleted.
“The biggest thing we can tell you, though, is even if you pay these ransoms for your data, you may not get your data back,” Brandt said.
In that case, important county documents could be gone for good.
“If you don’t have a recursive backup and you have to restore data manually using shadow copies off of your hard drive, it could anywhere between three days to ten days,” Brandt added.
The viruses are making it difficult for county employees to do their jobs efficiently.
However, there is good news. Judge Tanner said payroll will go out as usual and the spread of the viruses has been stopped.
“Everyone that’s on the county internet was affected by this, so it’s a big deal and it’s not anything we can just slough off,” said Judge Tanner. “We have to fix it and we got to make it right and we have to not ever let this happen again.”
Potter County is working with several agencies to fix the viruses. From the Department of Homeland Security to DPS and the City of Amarillo, plenty of people are working to discover what happened. Judge Tanner said even the FBI has been contacted.
Potter County’s programs are being completely rebuilt in the meantime.
Judge Tanner also said early voting and election day are not and will not be affected by the viruses.