Texas governments hit by multiple ransomware attacks

Local governments in numerous Texas towns have been hit by coordinated ransomware attacks over the past few days. According to an official news release from the state’s Department of Information Resources, the attacks were first noticed on Aug. 19, which immediately caused the State Operations Center to mobilize in response. The State Operations Center, as defined on its website, exists in a capacity that “operates 24/7 to monitor threats, make notification of threats and provide information on emergency incidents to local, state, and federal officials, and coordinate state emergency assistance to local governments that have experienced an emergency situation that local response resources are inadequate to deal with.”

That last part of the State Operations Center’s mission is key to understanding this ransomware incident. The reason for this is that the ransomware attacks targeted over 20 local state governments. (These remain unnamed in the news release.) The investigation indicates that there is one threat actor behind all the attacks. It is not known who this attacker is, or at least the Texas investigators are not saying, so at this point, it is merely up to conjecture. Additionally, investigators have yet to determine the point of attack, but they state that “response and recovery are the priority at this time.” This implies that the attacks are not yet under control, which is understandable considering the scope of the ransomware infection. It should also be noted that the ransomware strain is also unknown at this time.

This Texas ransomware attack is yet another major incident in a relatively short span involving local governments and ransomware. One has to wonder what exactly is driving this sudden uptick in ransomware attacks targeting the 50 states. Are the threat actors foreign agents? Are they domestic terrorists? Or, perhaps, are they cybercriminals who are looking to wreak havoc and get a payday? Regardless, it is highly likely that this Texas incident will not be the last major attack like this in 2019.

Featured image: Flickr/ Ray Bodden

Derek Kortepeter

Derek Kortepeter is a graduate of UCLA and tech journalist that is committed to creating an informed society with regards to Information Security. Kortepeter specializes in areas such as penetration testing, cryptography, cyber warfare, and governmental InfoSec policy.

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