On Friday, May 8th, the Office of Court Administration (OCA), the information technology (IT) provider for the appellate courts and state judicial agencies within the Texas Judicial Branch, identified a serious security event in the branch network, which was later determined to be a ransomware attack.
The attack began during the overnight hours and was first discovered in the early morning hours on Friday. The attack is unrelated to the courts’ migration to remote hearings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Immediately upon discovery, OCA IT staff disabled the branch network including websites and servers to prevent further harm. The network has remained disabled since this time and will continue to do so until the breach is remediated.
OCA is working with law enforcement and the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) to investigate the breach. DIR and other information security authorities are providing assistance to OCA with recovery support.
OCA was able to catch the ransomware and limit its impact and will not pay any ransom. Work continues to bring all judicial branch resources and entities back online. In the meantime, a temporary web site has been established with critical judicial branch information, including information concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent years, the majority of the Texas Judicial Branch entities supported by OCA have moved many IT functions to the cloud. These services have not been impacted by the attack. These cloud services include eFileTexas (for filing of documents), reSearchTX (for reviewing filed documents), collaboration tools for editing and sharing documents, and email.
This action will permit many of the courts and judicial branch agencies to continue operations and ensure that filing of documents can continue uninterrupted. At this time, there is no indication that any sensitive information, including personal information, was compromised.
Additionally, due to the structure of the IT function within the state judiciary, individual trial court networks throughout the state were unaffected by the cyberattack. Judicial branch employees supported by OCA have received training in cybersecurity in recent weeks and will continue to receive updated training.
Blake Hawthorne, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Texas, tweeted on Tuesday night “I have a feeling that before long I will be giving a continuing legal education talk on the oddly specific topic “Operating a Court During a Pandemic and a Ransomware Attack.”