Ransomware hits 22 Texas towns, officials working overnight to recover from massive attack

Cyber Security
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After a ransomware attack hit at least 22 cities and local governments in Texas, the authorities said that they are currently working to recover their networks. Meanwhile, a mayor of Texas municipality said that the hackers who infiltrated the computer systems have asked for $2.5 million as ransom.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and state cybersecurity experts are examining the ongoing cyberattack, which has affected mostly smaller local governments.

Elliott Sprehe of the Texas Department of Information Resources, which is coordinating the state's response to the attack said in a statement that as per the collected evidence it points out towards a single threat actor. He also said that the areas impacted are predominantly rural.

But the agency declined to share speculation on who might be responsible, citing an ongoing federal investigation on the attack which hit Texas cities on August 16.

In a statement, officials in Borger in the Texas Panhandle said that the attack has affected the business and financial operations in the city. It also added that "Responders have not yet established a time-frame for when full, normal operations will be restored."

Keene, another Texas city which has almost 6,100 people outside Fort Worth was also a victim of the ransomware attack and as per the officials, the city government is also unable to process utility payments.

As reported by NPR, Keene Mayor Gary Heinrich said that the threat actors broke into city's information technology software which is also managed by an outsourced company. The Mayor added that this company also supports other targeted municipalities. However, in addition, he also mentioned that the hackers collectively asked for $2.5 million.

CNN reported that Allan Liska, who tracks ransomware attacks for the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said, "We haven't seen this kind of coordinated ransomware attack against municipalities before. We have seen attackers that will go after local governments, but sequentially."

However, it should be noted that in the past few years the cyberattacks, especially the ransomware attacks have increased in the US particularly targeting the government networks. Earlier two ransomware attacks had paralysed Harrison County Courthouse and Florida city council as well as Baltimore City.

Avesta Hojjati, head of R&D at DigiCert told IBTimes Singapore that "the question of whether to pay a ransom is a difficult one, and by that time, you're left with limited options... As an organization, you should spend the necessary effort and money on proper security measures, and potentially save millions of dollars in damage if an attack were to happen."

Advising the firms to spend more time on security, Hajjati said: "As always, prevention is better than cure. It's smart to invest in proper authentication protocols instead of relying on weak passwords, and to provide security training materials to individuals to enhance security measures."

Related topics : Ransomware