Six Eastern Carolina counties locked out of their online records

Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 9:28 AM EST
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WRAL) - They’re responsible for keeping and protecting your most important records.

But Thursday, a company that works with local governments across North Carolina has been paralyzed by a cyber attack with no end in sight.

WRAL reports that Cott Systems said they work with 300 local offices in 21 states, but right now that work is on hold and local offices are facing the fallout.

From birth certificates to death certificates, your most important records are stored with your county register of deeds; This week, at least six North Carolina registers are in limbo.

Nash, Halifax, Edgecombe, Greene, Pamlico and Jones counties were all locked out of their online records after Cott Systems was hit with a cyber attack on Christmas Day.

Steve Cobb is a chief information security officer for One Source Communications, a cyber security company; Details on the attack on Cott are limited, but Cobb says ransomware attacks have been on the rise.

“Starting the week before Christmas, we’ve seen an uptick,” said Cobb. “While we’re on holiday, threat actors are not.”

For local governments, it’s a serious pain as registers are forced to return to record-keeping with a pen and paper.

Not all county registrars have been impacted equally. Greene County has been unable to issue marriage licenses, or do indexing.

Others, including Jones County, say they’re still fully operational, just slower. Staff Thursday requested that people “be patient. We’re doing the best we can.”

Assistant Nash County County manager Scott Rogers said vital records - including birth certificates and property deeds - should be safe, but adding new ones has, in some cases, been impossible.

“Everything is at a much slower pace,” said Rogers. “What we haven’t been able to do is record real estate transactions and issue marriage licenses.”

Rogers said he believes the county has now found a workaround, but according to Cobb, undoing the damage this cyber attack caused won’t be easy, or fast.

“Days, if not weeks,” said Cobb.

Cott declined multiple requests for comment from WRAL News, but multiple registers of deeds confirmed Cott has been providing daily updates to them since the cyber attack happened. Those registers say the cause of the attack hasn’t been released, but Cott has two different outside cyber security teams working on it.