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Orange County's DA's Office experiences data breach

Hackers broke into the Orange County District Attorney’s office’s information technology system last week, the DA’s office announced Monday.

The office did not specify whether any information was compromised, but said in a press release that it took “immediate action” to shut down its cybersecurity infrastructure as soon as it learned of the breach Friday.

The breach can take one to two weeks to investigate, an unidentified official told City News Service. No ransomware or virus has been identified at this time, according to the official.

“In addition, the OCDA implemented a series of protocols to ensure that the Orange County criminal justice system continues to function efficiently,” the DA’s office said. It added that it’s working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s office to find the perpetrator.

The OCDA said it coordinated with partner agencies and law enforcement entities to limit the damage. Director of Public Affairs and Community Engagement for Orange County’s Sheriff Department Carrie Braun confirmed with CNS the successful shutdown of its email connection to the OCDA. 

What are the standard procedures for cyber breaches in governmental agencies? 

Cyber breaches can be detrimental to governmental agencies. Each state has its own course of action. California requires agencies to notify residents about any data breach that may compromise their personal information. 

Furthermore, entities that maintain their own notification procedure must continually update people affected by the breach, as required by state law. If a third party is involved, they must notify the data owners or licensees immediately after discovering the unauthorized acquisition of information.

Local and state agencies may also submit a request for federal investigations. Once called upon, the FBI mitigates the situation through threat response, which is the criminal investigative pursuit of cyber actors to stop malicious activity.

The FBI also provides asset response, which means it assesses the vulnerability and scale of protection for compromised areas. This involves “reducing the impact to systems and/or data; strengthening, recovering and restoring services; identifying other entities at risk; and assessing potential risk to the broader community.” 

What information is held in the District Attorney’s Office? 

The DA is a public prosecutor with the power to investigate and prosecute crimes on behalf of constituents.

The OCDA Office Bureau of Investigation is made up of 130 police investigators that assist prosecutors in trial by developing leads, locating witnesses, ensuring the safety of victims and witnesses, writing and serving search warrants and investigating original cases, the bureau says on its website. The department also includes the assistance of 90 non-sworn employees.  

The OCDA Science and Technology Unit further harnesses public information through its DNA Database Program, which began in 2007. The database contains about 195, 663 individual defendant DNA profiles used to solve cases by comparing crime scene DNA profiles, according to the official website

Other technology unit services include the Red Flags Conviction Integrity Program, the Investigative Genetic Genealogy Program and the Body Worn Camera Program. 

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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