Some of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s internal systems shut down Sunday, affecting police officers’ ability to file arrest reports, due to “suspicious activity”, the city reported. The systems have since been restored, the city said.
“Neither the City of Jacksonville or the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office are the subject of a ransomware attack,” Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes said in a statement. “Friday evening, the City detected suspicious activity from an outside server thanks to cyber security detection software implemented within the last year. When City staff was alerted to a possible issue, they were able to quickly disable the account and implement precautionary measures. The situation is contained, and all systems are functioning properly. In an abundance of caution, the City and JSO have taken precautionary measures to limit access while cyber security teams finish a deep dive throughout the system.”
At least one arrest report Sunday noted the system outage as affecting officers’ ability to file reports. The outage also affected the office’s Computer-Assisted Dispatch system, one law-enforcement source told The Tributary. The office’s dashboard showing calls for service was down Sunday.
Two sources had said Sheriff’s Office officials blamed the issue on a possible ransomware attack, which could last days, but Hughes denied that it was ransomware.
After The Tributary’s initial reporting, First Coast News and Action News Jax independently confirmed Sheriff’s Office sources were calling the security threat a ransomware attack. News4Jax also confirmed the Sheriff’s Office’s computer systems had been compromised but did not say it was a ransomware attack.
The Sheriff’s Office did not return requests for comment Sunday. The office says, “Public Information Officers are accessible 24 hours a day for emergency media inquiries.”
“What a mess,” Duval County Judge Roberto Arias said. Arias handled the first-appearance hearings Sunday morning, which is where newly arrested defendants are assigned bail or released. “I knew something was wrong when I had 14 [defendants] on the calendar.”
Normally, he said, there are “anywhere from 40 to 60” defendants in a given session. Sunday’s two sessions had 14 and 15, and Monday morning’s had 19.
He said he called the jail to get answers to no avail. “What I was afraid was there was a backlog. At some point in time, the logjam is going to break.”
In Florida, defendants have the right to a first-appearance hearing within 24 hours of an arrest.
“I’m hopeful it’s not ransomware because historically that has been a really big obstacle to overcome,” Arias said.
Jacksonville Sheriff Pat Ivey and State Attorney Melissa Nelson did not return requests for comment.
Last year, hackers targeted law-enforcement and other government agencies in ransomware attacks. In such attacks, hackers often release sensitive data or limit access to systems until they get paid a ransom.
The Stuart Police Department lost photo and video evidence in 2019 to such an attack, forcing prosecutors to drop 11 narcotics cases.
The city has not yet released further details about the security breach, where it originated or what else may have been impacted.