King County Sheriff’s Office struggling after ‘security incident’

Jun 21, 2023, 9:34 AM | Updated: 10:43 am

King County Sherriff assist...

The King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) is struggling to recover from what is rumored to be a hack that occurred June 13. (Zack Heistand/Flickr)

(Zack Heistand/Flickr)

The King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) is struggling to recover from what is possibly a hack that occurred on June 13. Internally, the KCSO is referring to what occurred as a “security incident,” according to a June 19 memo obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

The King County Executive’s Office, through a spokesperson, confirmed that “a possible cybersecurity incident was found Monday last week involving KCSO.”

The memo acknowledges “corruption to our network.” It rendered computers unusable, locked staffers out of systems, and severely impacted the 911 dispatch servers and fingerprinting tools, setting off an emergency response from county computer technicians. It is possible the KCSO suffered a second “security incident” June 15, according to the memo.

“Our highest shared goal with KCIT / Microsoft & KCSO-AFIS-911 Tech teams & Command Staff is to: Keep 911 / Public Safety / AFIS Operations running… Along with securing & stabilizing the agency’s data & network,” the memo states. AFIS is the Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

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Major systems were offline during King County Sheriff’s security incident — some still are

The incident took major tools used by deputies offline, including the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems, which allow for coordinated communication and a record of law enforcement activity during emergency calls. With the system still reportedly down, deputies are using the dispatch radio for its communications.

King County 911 dispatch computers (desktop and some laptops) and servers were impacted. Emergency 911 call recordings are unavailable, along with access to Evidence.com, where deputies upload evidence on cases. The last update, according to the memo, lists fixes to these issues as “ongoing” but “partially resolved.”

After the security incident was first discovered, the 911 dispatch desktop computers were prioritized, according to an internal memo. The department worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, King County Department of Information Technology, and Microsoft for its “rebuild efforts.”

Fingerprinting was down, too

On June 15, two days later, the KCSO suspected a “possible new Event” that impacted the King County Regional Automated Fingerprint Identification System LiveScans. The tool shares and collects digital fingerprints with all 39 cities and unincorporated areas in King County and aids in investigations. It can access records for out-of-state suspects, as well.

It appears the full system was inaccessible, at least in some cities, for several days on several computers. The department was forced to collect the impacted computer to be wiped, reimaged, and reissued.

Priority sites, such as jails, were addressed first. The King County Correctional Facility regained access to two machines June 16, and the next day, South Correctional Entity (SCORE Jail) was addressed. Sex offender machines were also taken offline by the security incident.

Computers rendered unusable

Over the course of the next several days, KCSO collected reports of other impacted systems. Some employees were locked out of their accounts, and computers were unable to map network drives. They were also unable to log in to the Web Help Ticketing System, making it difficult to report issues. These issues were mostly resolved by June 19. The department’s Intranet page (its internal landing page for employees) was down until June 20, according to an email obtained by the Jason Rantz Show.

Employees were unable to retrieve scanned files. While staff was allowed to use Samsung phone scanning via the phone’s camera, they were warned against using other scanning phone apps because “they are not considered secure to introduce to our network.” Copiers were taken offline across the county, but the issue was partially resolved by June 19.

The KCSO is still dealing with some servers failing to back up. While some of the failures have been resolved, “others remain & are being closely monitored, re-evaluated & re-run until Resolved,” according to the memo.

Did the King County Sheriff’s Office security incident impact public safety?

It’s unclear if this security incident impacted public safety beyond making tasks more onerous. A spokesperson for the county is being tightlipped on the impact. “IT teams continue to monitor for any unusual activity. We won’t have more to add beyond that,” the spokesperson said.

Without access to normal tools, deputies and KCSO staff were forced to spend extra time on everyday tasks and rely on radio communication rather than the CAD system.

KCSO employees are told to report every issue they encounter. “Do not assume we are aware of everything,” the memo warns.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). He is the author of the book What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our CitiesSubscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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King County Sheriff’s Office struggling after ‘security incident’