Possible online breach halts some online vehicle tag renewals in state

The Great Seal of Arkansas at the State Capitol.
(File Photo/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
The Great Seal of Arkansas at the State Capitol. (File Photo/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Some Arkansans have not been able to renew their vehicle tags online recently because of an issue stemming from a possible security breach in November involving software used by county assessors' offices, officials said.

The issue is that at least some assessors' 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.

After 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 Tuesday that the company's system is not experiencing any security or technical issues and that the state Department of Transformation and Shared Services' Division of Information Systems has signed off on 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 Monday that "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.

"We knew we'd not been impacted, but we're still not allowed to reconnect," Burnett said.

"We've been working for some time to be able to transport information again," she said.

Angela Ray with the Saline County assessor's office said her office had experienced the same issue.

Assessor offices are involved in the tag renewal process because Arkansans must have their vehicles assessed and pay all personal property taxes owed before they can renew their tags.

When they attempt to renew their tags online, however, some Arkansans are being incorrectly told that their vehicles haven't been assessed.

Ray 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 and Administration Department, said Monday that he was not aware of every county in the state being affected by this issue.

"We know every county is responding and recovering from the hack," Hardin said.

He said the software issue is being dealt with at the county level.

But, he said, "If the systems are not communicating, we are overriding that."

"You just need to contact a help desk," Hardin said.

The Motor Vehicle Help Desk can be reached at (888) 389-8336 or by email at mvhelpdesk@dfa.arkansas.gov.

"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 assessor's office said she understood 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.

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