We’ve all heard the saying “everything is bigger in Texas”, well that was the case when a ransomware attack hit multiple towns in Texas. On Friday, August 16th, twenty-two Texas towns had their computer systems hacked, seized and held for ransom. The ransomware virus only affected certain agencies within the government rather than the government’s entire computer systems. The names of the Towns affected were not released early in the investigation to avoid any further potential attacks, as this attack had been considered “coordinated” and from one single threat actor.
The attack was classified as a Level 2 Escalated Response and was beyond what local responders were capable of managing. This led to several state and federal agencies responding to the attack including the F.B.I., the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Texas Military Department. One analyst from a cybersecurity firm reported this as the largest coordinated attack on cities, and the first time they had seen a coordinated attack. A major concern with this was that it may lead to an increase in these kinds of attacks, as many hackers love to copycat one another.
None of the cities had intentions of paying the ransom of the collective $2.5 million. Thankfully officials were prepared for the incident, it was reported that by early September more than half of the municipalities were back to normal operations. Many of the cities were able to restore from backups, while others had to rebuild from scratch. There have been multiple articles released with estimates of the cost to recover none of which have been below $10 million, but no final numbers have been released yet.
With an expected increase in ransomware please consider the following steps to reduce the chance of being the next ransomware victim:
- Be cautious when it comes to emails; even if a message seems authentic. If you receive an email with a link or attachment unexpectedly, stop and think before clicking that link or opening that attachment.
- Back it up. You don’t have to be dealing with malware to lose all your data and file, computers have been known to simply stop working. So, whether it’s music, photos, or other digital information it is important to protect everything especially valuable work.
- Consider using a stronger password. Try to include at least 12 characters, but the longer the better as this will make it harder for thieves to crack. Also consider including number, capitals, and symbols.
- Plug and Scan! Be careful when plugging USB’s and other external devices into your computer, they can be infected by malware and viruses. Use your computer’s security software to scan devices you choose to plug into your computer.