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Tazewell County government without phones, email after 'cyber incident' last week

Tazewell County Sheriff Jeff Lower speaks at a press conference he stands in front of a podium with multiple microphones in a county board room.
Collin Schopp
Tazewell County Sheriff Jeff Lower speaks at a news conference on a "cyber incident" that left the county without telephone or email capabilities.

Tazewell County offices remain without phone and email capabilities a week after a “cyber incident.”

Sheriff Jeff Lower said the county “proactively” took the network down after noticing their phones stopped working in the early morning of Monday, Nov. 20. Details are limited and Lower would not expand on the nature of the “cyber incident,” citing an ongoing criminal investigation.

“Some of the systems were interrupted, which caused us to take the system down to try and determine that,” he said.

The incident did not have any impact on emergency communications because dispatchers work through a different network than the one the county uses.

Lower said consultants have been brought in and his office has notified the FBI as part of their investigation.

Phone and computer usage is greatly limited for county employees as a result of the incident. County Clerk John Ackerman said some marriage licenses were typed on typewriters and issued over the holiday weekend.

“We're finding ways to make sure that all services are being fulfilled that we can take care of,” Ackerman said. “Like I said, we're just using different methods.”

Ackerman said the incident had no impact on the beginning of the petition filing period and election season. At this time, officials have no evidence that sensitive information regarding employees or elections was breached.

Though the county’s website remains unreachable, you can find most information on the county’s social media pages and many services are still available through the county app.

There’s no specific timeline yet, but Lower said the county is working “as quickly as they can” to restore service.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.