Some Arkansans have not been able to renew their vehicle tags online recently because of an issue that originated with a possible hack in November that involved county software, officials said.
The issue is that at least some county assessor’s offices are unable to transmit the data necessary for renewals to the state Department of Finance and Administration, they said.
While one county official said this issue is affecting all of the state's 75 counties, a state official couldn't confirm that.
Following the possible security breach, officials said, Apprentice Information Systems instructed some government offices to shut down their servers for a weekend as a precaution. Some county systems have not been reconnected to the state system, though the possible breach has been addressed, they said.
Doug Matayo, a spokesman for the company, said on Tuesday that its system is not experiencing any security or technical issues and that the state Division of Information Systems has signed off it being clean.
"I am sure the Department of Finance and Administration has their reasons for not [reconnecting county offices], but, at this point, it is not really a security issue," he said.
Karla Burnett, director of the Pulaski County assessor's office, said on Monday, “After the hack of Apprentice Information Systems, our ability to send data to the state was cut off. We’ve been cut off since November.”
She said she was told that Pulaski County's system was not compromised, and “we knew we’d not been impacted, but we’re still not allowed to reconnect.
“We’ve been working for some time to be able to transport information again,” Burnett said.
Angela Ray with the Saline County assessor's office said it had experienced the same issue.
Offices like theirs are involved in the tag renewal process because, according to the state finance department's website, Arkansans must assess their vehicles with their county's assessor and pay all personal property taxes owed before they can renew their tags.
Officials explained that, after assessing their personal property online, Arkansans should be able renew their tags online at https://www.arstar.arkansas.gov/.
Instead, some Arkansans who have assessed online are being told they haven't assessed yet and therefore can't renew their tags online, officials said.
Ray with the Saline County office said every county has been affected. “If we could just get the general public to understand that it is not Saline County’s fault,” she said, “The state sent out renewal notices for people to renew online and people did it, because it worked before; that’s how it normally worked.”
Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the finance department, said on Monday that he was not aware of every county in the state being affected by this. “We know every county is responding and recovering from the hack,” Hardin said.
He also said the software issue is being dealt with at the county level.
“However we do, at the DFA level, if the systems are not communicating, we are overriding that. You just need to contact a help desk,” Hardin said.
He said the Motor Vehicle Help Desk can be reached by phone at 1-888-389-8336 or by email at email@example.com.
“After the override has been processed, the customer should allow approximately 30 minutes for the update before they complete their online renewal,” Hardin said.
He said the department is looking into adding an automatic override regarding proof of assessment that would not require action from the customer, but he did not immediately confirm that this was in place on Tuesday.
Burnett with the Pulaski County office said she understood the customers' frustration at having to take another step in the renewal process.
“It is the busiest time of the year with everybody filing to assess,” she said. “We don’t know what else to do, but we want the service back, to reestablish a good service to taxpayers.”
Burnett also said the county offices' inability to send assessment data to the state may be more prominent now because more people are trying to file and are being affected by it.