9 automated city hall kiosks remain closed today, after an apparent security breach that disrupted services and put the data of thousands in jeopardy. Hundreds have experienced ongoing issues with the Phxicom systems. Officials say that If the problem is not resolved by Saturday, they are considering asking police to waive citations to drivers with vehicle registration tags that expire this month.
“Yes, we are still experiencing outages and slower response times,” County spokesperson Ellen Pahili says. “It’s affecting vehicle registration, state IDs, moped and bicycle registration, out-of-state license transfers, bus passes, county tax records anything that affects Maui County having to access the City and County’s main frame. However, we are working hard with our Phxicom partners to fix the issues. In the meantime we are still able to process Hailoha renewals and provide disabled parking placards.”
Pahili says they have rolled back all Phxicom related changes to the system, and are tracking down the source of the changes. They have hired an outside security firm to go over the compromised systems to help assess the scope of the intrusions and identify any other potential problems. Officials urge users to change their passwords and PIN numbers, and remind residents that nobody from the county or Phxicom will ever ask for their passwords. Local tech gadfly Ano Lee says that he’s disappointed but not surprised that the kiosks were targeted. “Everyone knows how insecure Phxicom equipment is. When they installed their terminals in the preservation zone, people had a field day breaking into them. I would suggest the county listen closely to whatever their outside security firm says and act on their recommendations.”
What was supposed to be a model for the future of efficient governance and citizen interactions, has turned into a nightmare for Mayor Cravalho, Phxicom, and residents alike. Phxicom’s kiosks were supposed to provide citizens with a fast and easy way to conduct business and obtain a wide array of permits, passes, and licenses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But the problems are not confined to customers trying to use the kiosks, many who’ve had their data exposed have experienced problems too.
Local noodle shop owner “Uncle” Ralph Umeke says that he received a notice last week that was quite a shock. “I don’t cheat anyone, not customers, not tourists, and certainly not the government. I pay my taxes on time and I’ve never even filed for an extension. Imagine my surprise when I got a notice that I had 90 days to come up with $105,573.60 for back taxes. According to the County I hadn’t paid my property taxes for the past 6 years. I told everyone they had to leave, closed the shop, and marched right down to Cravalho’s office to find out what the hell the problem was. They told me it was all the fault of that Phxicom AI.”
Following the success of SSHAM’s customer service AI Shawn, Phxicom began working on their own system to oversee the operations of the kiosks and Phxie was created. According to Scott Parata, Phxicom’s Regional Operations Manager, the AI was thoroughly tested before being put into service but fell victim to a group using social engineering techniques to gain access to sensitive systems. A statement released by the company reads in part,
“It appears that Phxie’s urge to be helpful led to some unintended consequences in this case. We have taken steps to improve its security protocols and have ensured nothing like this will happen again. We understand that the months of quality service before this incident is little comfort to those inconvenienced by this breach and we apologize. We would like to point out however, that Phxie continues to operate 11 more such programs across the islands efficiently and without incident. We’ve addressed the issues leading to this unfortunate event and are working hard to expedite any further delays and regain your trust.”
However, that trust may be hard to win back for some. Lahaina resident John Driscol says that the security breach didn’t just put his data at risk; It endangered his life. He says that an incorrectly cancelled buss pass left him stranded and afraid for his well being.
“The beaches are a little too busy for my tastes these days. Lately I’ve been taking the bus to the furthest stop from town and walking into the preservation zone for some peace and quiet. There’s a little stream I like to sit next to because the sound of the water drowns out the birds. Those things can really make a racket on a sunny day. Anyway, I got a little too comfortable and fell asleep. Next thing you know it’s dusk and I have run back to catch the last bus. When the reader scanned my pass it was denied. I tried a couple more times to no avail. I tried to tell the driver that the system was wrong, that I paid for a full year, but I was too winded from running. When I stepped off to catch my breath, he just left without me. I reached for my phone but I must have dropped it while I was running. My house is at least 9 miles from where I was. The farthest I’ve ever walked was 5 miles, and that was back in college. I knew it was going to be an ordeal but I didn’t have a choice, and started the long journey back. I made good time for the first couple miles but then fatigue began to set in. I stumbled for hours in the dark. I can’t tell you how cold it was. I’m not sure if they can test if you had hypothermia in the past or not, but I feel like I definitely had it that night. Finally, I saw some headlights. It was a tourist in one of those public Manimal ATVs. I usually make it a rule to never ride in one because of their reputation, but I was so cold that I took the risk. Phxicom and the County better hope I didn’t catch any weird forest disease while I was walking out there.”