City: JSO computer systems scaled back after ‘suspicious activity’ flagged by cyber security software

Sheriff candidates respond to the incident

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had major computer system issues on Sunday that were having an effect on its dispatch and jail booking processes, two sources with knowledge of the situation told News4JAX. The Tributary, which was the first media outlet to report the issues, said “internet outages” on Sunday were affecting police officers’ ability to file arrest reports.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had major computer system issues on Sunday that were having an effect on its dispatch and jail booking processes, two sources with knowledge of the situation told News4JAX.

The city said the systems are working properly, but there is limited access as cyber security experts look into the problem.

The Tributary, which was the first media outlet to report the issues, said “internet outages” on Sunday were affecting police officers’ ability to file arrest reports.

According to the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes, it started Friday when 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,” he added. “The situation is contained, and all systems are functioning properly.”

Hughes said that neither the City of Jacksonville nor the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is the subject of a ransomware attack.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had major computer system issues on Sunday that were having an effect on its dispatch and jail booking processes, two sources with knowledge of the situation told News4JAX.

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, he added. That precaution has led to changes that have slowed the processes previously in place for dispatch systems and filing arrest reports, sources said.

The issues will not impact if residents need to call 911 and report a crime.

“They can still take calls. The 9-1-1 system is just down. They just have to process them differently,” cyber security expert Chris Hamer told News4JAX. “Every dispatch center has a plan when all heck breaks loose.”

An FBI spokesperson released the following statement:

“The FBI Jacksonville Cyber Task Force has been providing assistance to the City of Jacksonville related to potentially suspicious activity on its system, and our technically trained cyber experts will continue to share any new information available to assist them in making informed decisions.”

News4JAX also reached out to several candidates running for sheriff about the matter.

Ken Jefferson believes JSO officials and the city will fix this issue.

“I believe they will figure it out. They have professionals that deal with this sort of thing all day every day so it’s just a little bump in the road. This goes to show it can happen anywhere to anybody,” Jefferson said.

Lakesha Burton said “I cannot offer insight without having the specific details of this current situation at JSO. Unfortunately, in today’s world, these are the threats organizations must be ready to face.”

Wayne Clark said he’s surprised because JSO has more firewalls than any other city’s systems and has to pass FDLE inspections but he wasn’t aware of the specific issue.

“The power outage that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office experienced today is a reminder of the need to update and harden the agency’s computer systems (i.e., redundant backups and software patches) to guard against ransomware attacks,” Tony Cummings said. “This type of crippling attack on our public and private sector networks both here and nationwide, do not discriminate against any American institution, to include our law enforcement agencies. That said. We must remain vigilant and invest in our technology upgrades to mitigate these types of attacks to JSO systems in the future.”

TK Waters declined to comment.


About the Authors:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.