News for Public Officials and the People They Serve

Ohio County Website Hacked?
Jarrod A. Clabaugh, Source of Title reprinted with permission

The Cuyahoga County Recorder's Office in northern Ohio provides its county records to the public free of charge. The site claims that its information is "provided to allow the citizens of Cuyahoga County, and the world, access to information housed at our office." Users are informed that they can access data contained in all the documents filed from 1810 until present day.

The site also claims to be the "the most comprehensive land database in the world." However, users who attempted to access the site this morning received an error message and were unable to view or print any of the records contained within the county's database. Unconfirmed reports alluded that the site had been taken offline after hackers attempted to gain access to the county's vast information database. On a typical day, users are able to search for a document using various criteria, and then view an image of the original document as it is stored in the county's database system.

Source of Title received a tip from a Cleveland, Ohio-based company on March 3, 2006 that the site was offline throughout the morning and that county workers had informed them the site had been "hacked." When Source of Title contacted the county, those working in the county's management information services' division stated that the site had never been down and access to it had merely been blocked by companies or individuals that were seeking access to bulk amounts of information.

"One of the things we have a problem with is what they call 'bots' - automatic retrieval," said a member of the management information services division for the county. "Different companies don't want to pay for data and they get blocked."

The county employee added that whenever a tool is provided for free use, the possibility exists that someone may abuse it. When Cuyahoga County officials uncover individuals or companies abusing the Website, the county blocks those users' Internet addresses and they are unable to access the system.

The site had not gone offline, added the county employee. He explained that if there are a large number of images being reviewed and transferred, the amount of people trying to review the information can overwhelm the county's system.

He added that most of the conflicts the recorder's office faces are with companies that are accessing the site and reselling the data they gathered there. People have been trying to amass large qualities of information without paying for it even though the county already sells bulk information to companies such as Chicago Title and Data Trace. 

A subscriber-based service is currently being considered by the county, but that no decisions have been made at this time as to whether one will be implemented, the county employee added. The site does contain a warning to those using the service stating the "use of automatic extraction methods from this site is considered abusive. If you or your company utilizes this method you may be banned without notice."

One title professional who operates in the county noted that the site is often difficult to access and has posed problems in online availability before. The title professional also said that when associates were unable to gain access to the county's records, they traveled to the county courthouse and mentioned the problem to those working in the office. Workers there seemed surprised to learn that the Website was offline and said they had received several inquiries about its availability. 

2005, Source of Title

Source of Title launched in September 2002 as a directory to help title industry professionals locate independent settlement service providers. Since then, Source of Title has added forums and full-service news content targeted at industry professionals.

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