23 local governments in Texas crippled by coordinated ransomware attack
About 23 local governments in Texas have been crippled in an unprecedented coordinated ransomware attack.
The attack started on Friday. Texas State officials didn’t name which local governments were affected, only describing them as “smaller local governments.”
According to Google, Texas has 4,835 locals governments, meaning that although 23 may sound like a lot, they are remains only a small fraction of the state. Australia, a country with a comparable population to Texas, has 537 local government bodies but is roughly 11 times bigger.
“Currently, DIR [the Department of Information Resources], the Texas Military Department, and the Texas A&M University System’s Cyberresponse and Security Operations Center teams are deploying resources to the most critically impacted jurisdictions, ” DIR said in a statement Saturday. “Further resources will be deployed as they are requested.”
According to The Hill, the names of the local governments are not being released because of “security reasons.”
No details of what sort of ransomware attack they have been targeted with were released either. That said, ZDNet, quoting a source said the unnamed ransomware encrypts files and then adds the .JSE extension at the end. While the ZDNet report claims that the ransomware strain might be known as Nemucod, there is one famous strain of ransomware that adds .JSE to encrypted files and that’s Locky.
Locky first emerged in 2016 and while primarily distributed via email has come in different variants over the years, most recently via a massive phishing campaign in April. The common factor across all forms of Locky is encryption and a ransom demand, usually a demand for payment of between 0.5 and 1 bitcoin.
Along with Texas state departments, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are said to be assisting in both the investigation into the ransomware attacks and the recovery from them.
The unnamed Texas local government bodies are not the first U.S. local governments to be targeted in recent times — and will not be the last. Setting an extraordinarily bad precedent, several local governments in Florida paid the ransom demand after being targeted by ransomware in June, adding proverbial fuel to the fire of what was already a serious problem to begin with.
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