Scores of local government workers in Arkansas worked without computers Wednesday after a Rogers-based information technology company said it was shutting down computer servers because of possible security breaches.
“We were told not to burn the ends,” said Newton County Coroner Stephen Willis of Jasper. “No one can pay taxes through the tax authority, no one can judge.
“It’s a holy mess.”
Willis refers to the local office of the tax collector and assessor. In some affected counties, residents can still pay taxes and assess property.
Willis said he was told to shut down the servers on Saturday and it could be two weeks before they can use the computers again.
“Basically we just committed rapes,” he said. “They’ve done it in every country I’ve talked to.”
Doug Mattayo of Springdale, a consultant with Apprentice Information Systems Inc., said the problem may affect state offices in half of Arkansas’ 75 counties, but that some have “resurfaced.”
“A lot of this is for prevention,” he said. “Out of an abundance of caution, they noticed something unusual and took appropriate action.”
Apprentice offers several software packages designed specifically for local government departments, according to the company’s website at
“When you combine that with our hardware sales and support, you have an unmatched commitment to success,” according to the company.
Matayo said Disciples also works in areas of Oklahoma, but as far as he knows, no one has been affected.
Matayo said the possible violations had nothing to do with Tuesday’s election.
“All these systems, this infrastructure is in a separate system,” he said. “Electoral Systems, Tabulations and Off the Net.”
When asked if there was any ransomware involved in the breach, Matayo said, “I’m not aware of that.”
Chris Villains, executive director of the Arkansas State Association, said he did not know exactly how many counties were affected.
“I know the AIS system has been compromised and the local office has been asked to shut down their servers as a precaution,” he said.
To register a new vehicle in Arkansas, citizens may be required to provide proof of prior year property tax payment and proof of current year tax assessment.
Because the computers aren’t working, it’s hard for some state assessors to know if someone paid taxes last year, Willis said.
“Most people have receipts from where they paid their taxes, which was just a month ago on October 17 this year.
Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, said they are aware of the situation affecting several counties.
“The state revenue department is functioning normally and providing vehicle registration and other services in all parts of the state,” he said.
“We are working closely with the affected counties. Earlier this week, information was collected and relayed about some isolated delays for a small number of customers in some offices. We are operating smoothly across the state and Arkansans should avoid coming anywhere to motorcycle to complete, vehicle and driver related services… our 134 revenue offices Arkansans can also always visit mydmv.arkansas.gov because many motor vehicle services are available on line”.
Some large counties in Arkansas have no problem with closings.
Carla Barnett, director of the Pulaski County Assessment Office, said she is the only office in Pulaski County using the Apprentice server. He said they became aware of the problem on Saturday, took the system offline for forensic analysis and restarted it on Tuesday morning.
Pope County Assessor Dana Baker of Russellville said it’s not as bad as it could be.
“Fortunately, our offsite backups have not been compromised or compromised,” he said. “They back us up at night and send it off-site. Once we back them up, our data should be fine.”
Baker said that not all local government departments were affected by the server outage. In Pope County, for example, he said it affects every county office except the county clerk’s office.
County Clerk Lee Becky Hogan of Marianna, in eastern Arkansas, said they learned a lesson from the shutdown.
In the future, he said, personal account information will be stored on a zip drive so it can be easily retrieved if such incidents happen again.
What about property records?
“Property is a completely useless animal. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it again. It’s too big to fit in a Jeep.”
Searcy County Assessor Randy Crumley of Marshall said the closure “caused some kind of problem with some things.”
“We can’t turn on the computer,” he said.
“Nobody can write a deed, so it can’t be done. So when it comes to the property part, it just stands still.
“As far as points and what not, we took the names and the numbers and did it the old fashioned way until we got them all back,” Crumley said.
“That’s all we can do now. It’s a waiting game for us.”
Crumley said he will likely close the assessor’s office today and give employees an extra long weekend. They were already supposed to close Friday for Veterans Day.
“We live in a world of computers, and when that computer fails, we are going to suffer,” he said. “It’s great when they do well, but right now they’re not worth 50 cents.”
Christina LaRue of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported for this article.