In 2019, 22 Texas towns faced ransomware attacks that infiltrated computer systems and locked the governments out of their own data. Attackers demanded payment in exchange for the keys to access the data, and local governments struggled with the implications for their cybersecurity. A number of Texas school districts have also faced attacks since then.
Tech expert Omar Gallaga wrote about the hacks and counties’ responses for the Texas Association of Counties’ County Magazine. He told Texas Standard that county governments have outsourced some cybersecurity operations to obtain more sophisticated protection, while others have focused on training employees to be vigilant about threats.
Highlights from this segment:
– Cyber attacks on Texas counties, towns and school districts brought many governments to a standstill because employees were unable to access their networks or data files.
– Paying ransom when an attack occurs is often illegal under federal law.
– Some small governments have upgraded their cybersecurity infrastructure, while others have hired security companies to provide protection.
– County governments become a “juicy target” for attackers because their systems are often vulnerable and they have resources with which to pay ransom demands.
– Even if stolen data is returned after payment of a ransom, it is often not in usable form.