Published: Fri, August 23, 2019
IT | By Jonathon Greene

Texas governments hit by multiple ransomware attacks

Texas governments hit by multiple ransomware attacks

If the file is opened by an unsuspecting employee, the ransomware can infect the employee's computer and will often spread throughout an enterprise's network, locking down all computers and servers and sending systems offline for an extended time period.

The attack in Texas is similar to others that have crippled digital operations in cities around the country in recent years, Elliott Sprehe, a department spokesman, said Tuesday.

The DIR believes, based on the evidence now gathered, that the attack came from one single threat actor.

Texas authorities say more than 20 local governments are facing a coordinated ransomware attack.

Texas' state systems were not part of the attacks, the DIR said.

Texas and federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, are working with the affected cities to try and restore their access. DIR said it will lead the cybersecurity response to the attack.

Local government bodies are coming under increasing attack in the United States, with cyber-criminals betting correctly that poor security practices and under-funding have left them particularly exposed to ransomware.

The US Conference of Mayors said in July that there have been 22 ransomware attacks on city, county and state governments so far this year. The FBI and other federal agencies are involved.

Among the US cities that have been targeted by ransomware attacks is Baltimore, where officials refused a demand for about $76,000 in bitcoin to restore access to its computer network. However, it did say that "investigations into the origin of this attack are ongoing", but that "response and recovery are the priority at this time".

Also in June, city leaders in Riviera Beach, Fla. and Lake City, Fla., agreed to pay hackers $600,000 and $460,000, respectively, of ransom in hopes of having their systems restored. Atlanta reportedly spent $2.6 million to respond to a ransomware attack last year, and an attack on Baltimore city systems earlier this year was estimated to cost the city $18 million in cleanup costs and lost revenue.

Sprehe said he didn't know whether any of the affected Texas municipalities have or plan to cave to the attacker's ransom demand.

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