23 towns in Texas were hit by possibly the largest ransomware attack ever, in what could be the first coordinated cyberattack of its kind ever

cyber attacks on us 2x1Samantha Lee/Business Insider

  • 23 towns in Texas had their computer systems hacked and their data held hostage in a large-scale coordinated ransomware attack on August 16, the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) said in a press release.
  • The attack was launched by a "single threat actor," and is the largest ransomware attack so far based on the number of areas affected, according to a cybersecurity analyst who spoke with The New York Times. It may be the largest coordinated ransomware attack on cities to date, said that analyst.
  • It's unclear whether the computer systems in the affected town had sufficient security measures, or whether they have backups of their data. It's also unclear if any services were disrupted.
  • It's also unknown how much money the attacker is demanding to end the attack.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

23 towns in Texas had their computer systems hacked and their data held hostage in a large-scale coordinated ransomware attack on August 16, the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) said in a press release.

As is the nature of ransomware, the attacker is holding the data in the towns' computer systems for ransom . The attack was launched by a "one single threat actor," the DIR said.

The alternative to paying the ransom would be for each town to restore from older data backups, but it's unclear whether such backups exist. It's also unclear whether the towns had sufficient security measures in place to mitigate such an attack in the first place.

Speaking with The New York Times, cybersecurity firm Recorded Future analyst Allan Liska said the August 2019 Texas ransomware attack was the largest so far, and possibly the first time he's seen a coordinated attack of this nature.

The DIR revealed little information about the attacks. It's not know which towns or departments were affected, whether any town services were affected, nor how much the attackers are demanding.

Texas' state systems were not part of the attacks, the DIR said.

The DIR declined to comment beyond the press release.

In May 2019, the city of Baltimore, Maryland, had 10,000 of its computers affected by a ransomware attack, where the attacker demanded a $100,000 payment in Bitcoin to release the data.

And in June 2019, two cities in Florida were also affected by a ransomware attack. Lake City and Riviera Beach paid out over one million dollars total to the attackers to release the data stored in the city systems. Lake City paid $500,000 worth of Bitcoin; Riviera Beach paid $600,000.
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