Hacked

The website for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is still offline three weeks after a cybersecurity attack, with employees manually processing requests for background checks and vital records.

Law enforcement, working with Alaska’s IT specialists, continue to investigate the May 17 hack of DHSS to determine how the breach occurred, its scope and impact, according to Commissioner Adam Crum’s office.

DHSS said it cannot provide a timeline yet on when online services will return. It also is being careful not to disclose findings that could give the hackers information that could impede the investigation.

“I’m sure Alaskans have many questions about this attack, but I ask for their patience and understanding to give our team the time needed to complete the investigation,” Crum said in a prepared statement Monday.

“Just as law enforcement agencies are cautious in releasing details during an active investigation, we must be careful not to inadvertently give the attackers any details about our actions that could further hinder our recovery.”

The Alaska Office of Information Technology is assisting the DHSS IT team to secure the network and strengthen “people, processes and tools” to prevent future breaches, according to the department.

In a press release Monday, DHSS said that the large size of its IT infrastructure and complexity of data and systems “requires a careful, meticulous approach that will take more time ... Protecting Alaskans’ data and restoring services is of paramount importance.”

Most divisions have a temporary web page with important documents and contact information. People are advised to go to dhss.alaska.gov for phone numbers, forms and further instruction. 

According to DHSS, requests for background checks and vital records are being processed manually. 

The programs typically handle a high number of public requests and have changed procedures since the loss of online services. Expect some delays.

The Health Care Services (HCS) Division is continuing to conduct background checks through manual processing and review.

The process could take up to 15 days, but at this time is being handled in two to three days. Additional staff has been hired and overtime authorized to manage the workload.

See this temporary webpage for more information about the interim background check process and to download forms: dhss.alaska.gov/dhcs.

Vital records requests are taking longer to fill because of manual processing.

Birth, death and marriage certificates are available through the Juneau office. Both the Juneau and Anchorage offices can process marriage license applications.

See this temporary webpage for more information on how to request records and download forms: dhss.alaska.gov/dph/vitalstats.

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.