5 important facts you need to know about the Texas-based ransomware attacks

 - 
08/21/2019

Whomever is the culprit for all these ransomware attacks on local U.S. government entities sure is getting a ton of notoriety in the media. With 22 reported and known public-sector attacks so far this year, and none tracked by the federal government or FBI, according to CNN, I say, the more information available the better for those needing to protect themselves. 

The most recent ransomware attack happened in my home state of Texas against 22 small-town governments, and while our “Don’t mess with Texas” campaign is aimed at road-side litter, I think it’s appropriate that we take out the trash on cybercrime, too! Here’s 5 important facts you need to know about these attacks: 

Names of the attacked municipalities are undisclosed, except for two. The city of Borger, Texas, located a few miles north of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, issued a statement noting that as of Monday, August 19, 2019, birth and death certifications are offline, and the city is unable to take utility or other payments. The city reassured residents that no late fees would be assessed nor would any utilities be shut off.

Keene, Texas, located just outside Ft. Worth, Texas, was also affected in a similar fashion as Borger. They, too, are unable to process utility payments via credit card. Keene Mayor, Gary Heinrich, told NPR, that hackers breached the information technology software used by the city and managed by an outsourced company, which according to the Mayor also supports many of the other targeted municipalities. 

Heinrich also noted that the hackers demanded a collective ransom of $2.5 million but also said there’s no way his city will be coughing up the dough!
“Stupid people,” Heinrich told NPR, referring to the cyber attackers. “You know, just no sense in all this at all.” 

Attacks seem to be from one, single threat actor. This means only one cybercriminal or cyber-criminal group is responsible for the attacks. 

Attacks are coordinated. What’s so alarming about these attacks is that they simultaneously targeted approximately two dozen cities, dubbing it as a “digital assault.”

Attacks are mostly rural. Small-town governments usually don’t have the budget to staff in-house IT, instead using outsourced specialists. This could mean valuable time that should have been used to quickly assess each incident was spent bringing the outsourced specialists up to speed about the details of the attack before any response could begin. 

The overarching goal is response and recovery. The affected municipalities are assessing and responding and, as quickly as possible, moving into remediation and recovery to get back to operations as usual as soon as possible.