Proposed legislation aims to strengthen security for agencies against cyberattacks

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NEWTON, Kan. Update Monday, Feb. 12:

People in Harvey County can get their driver's licenses renewed, but the county is not yet back to full function after a cyberattack early last week.

The county says the appraiser, attorney, clerk, planning and other departments are still trying to get operations back to normal.

The Harvey County Sheriff's Office and 911 continue to be operational. County officials can't say how or exactly where the cyberattack happened. The county reported the attack happened Feb. 4.

The county says it has a backup system in place and has purchased more network security in the past year.

The situation in Harvey County serves as a reminder that government agencies are often victims of cyberattacks.

Lays year, the Kansas Department of Commerce was hacked, costing the state $1.2 million.

'Everyone is cyberattacked every day, you, me, county governments, city governments, federal governments, says Rep. Tom Sloan who serves as Chairman of the Government, Technology and Security Committee.

The Kansas Cybersecurity Act would strengthen security for state agencies.

"Let's just say the Speaker of the House asked me how soon this would be on the House floor, so we view this as being very important," Sloan says.

He says this wouldn't apply to local governments or cost them, but he still thinks the Kansas Cybersecurity Act will help local governments.

"We live in dangerous times,..." Newton resident Shiva Kumar says. "I think anyone is unaware or believes that the system are secure is living in a very happy vacuum."

The Kansas Cybersecurity Act is currently in committee. The chairperson says they expect to have the latest version of the bill Wednesday.

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Original story from Wednesday, Feb. 7

Still no timeline in Harvey County on when it's computer network will be back up and running.

Sunday's cyberattack shut down the courthouse on Monday. When it reopened on Tuesday there were limited services. Wednesday nothing changed.

When you enter the courthouse there's a sign that says "Driver's License will be closed until further notice. Sorry for any inconvenience."

Employees have had to turn several people away and will continue to do that indefinitely because no one knows how long the systems will be down.

Sunday’s cyberattack has made it so just about anything that requires a computer network, is not available. In addition to driver's licenses, vehicle tags are also not able to be issued.

The county believes no personal information was compromised and nothing was taken.

Even still, they closed the courthouse Monday to assess the attack.

On Tuesday, when they tried to put services back online, they discovered more concerns.

That’s why the county brought in outside experts to fight the attack.

911 services were not impacted, so you can still call if you need help.

Likewise the Sheriff’s office is up and running as normal.

Passports were initially a question mark, but they went to their old system and can get that done on paper.

If you have questions about specific services, your best bet will be to call the county at (316) 284-6800.

Often times these attacks come as ransomware attacks, where the hacker holds hostage key information and asks for money to release it. Harvey County has not said whether its attack was ransomware, but we know Butler County was recently held hostage in that type of attack.

"My advice would be not to pay the ransom," said Brandon Joiner, a team lead at Ribbit Business Solutions. "First of all it's incredibly difficult to actually get it paid because they usually want to be paid in a crypto-currency like bit coin, so you have to hire someone if you don't know a lot about bit coin to set up an account, transfer the bit coin and I think your odds at best then are 50-50 they'll actually going to encrypt your data and make it usable again."

Cyber-attackers asked for bitcoin when they held butler county's information ransom.

"There's a message that pops up," said Butler County Administrator, William Johnson. "It took us about four days to get everything restored, and some of it takes so much time to restore the data. That's the big problem."