Colleen Younger

Jefferson County PVA Colleen Younger, April 26, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator's office has been hit by a ransomware attack, in which hackers are holding the agency's data hostage for payment, PVA Colleen Younger said in an interview Monday.

Younger told WDRB that the agency learned of the attack on Wednesday and had closed its office -- where title researchers and members of the public can look up real estate data -- until Dec. 28. 

"Our systems were all down and data was not accessible," Younger said.

But Younger, a Democrat elected to the position in 2019, said the agency is restoring its data through a backup and has no intention of paying the hackers.

She added that officials are "pretty sure" no personal data was exposed.

"We don’t think there has been any kind of security breach," she said.

The office has hired "a cyber security agency who is in the process of conducting a forensic analysis of the attack," Younger said in a Facebook post about the attack. Younger said they also reported the attack to the FBI.

The PVA sets the tax value of real estate in Jefferson County and keeps a database of public information such as the owners of properties and their mailing addresses, the dates and amounts of property sales and assessment histories. 

Younger said only a tiny fraction of the office's data is nonpublic information, such as information about taxable personal property and seniors' applications for Homestead exemptions.

"We don't think that particular data was even involved," she said.

As ransomware attacks have become more common, some victims have felt no choice but to pay to get their data back.

Park Duvalle Community Health Center, a nonprofit medical provider in west Louisville, paid $70,000 to hackers for its patient records in 2019.

Younger, whose office is part of state government, said she hopes the PVA's systems will be restored by the end of the week.

As for the hackers, she said, "We are definitely going to tell them to take a hike."

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.