A ransomware attack has affected at least 23 targets in Texas, striking mostly “smaller local governments,” according to the state’s Department of Information Resources.
State agencies are working with the towns to respond to the incident, get systems online, and investigate who’s responsible, authorities said. One “threat actor” is believed to be behind all the attacks. The State Operations Center, part of Texas’s emergency management system, has been activated to help respond. The state is deploying cybersecurity experts to assist the affected towns, CNBC reports.
State-owned systems and networks haven’t been affected, the agency said.
Ransomware has been a problem in recent years for government agencies as well as individuals and private businesses. Atlanta reportedly spent $2.6 million to respond to a ransomware attack last year, and an attack on Baltimore city systems earlier this year was estimated to cost the city $18 million in cleanup costs and lost revenue. In Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency last month after three school systems in the state were struck by ransomware.
Experts often say local government agencies can fall prey to ransomware since they don’t have the resources to pay for the latest cybersecurity technology. Even if they’re not deliberately targeted, that can make it easier for their computers to be infected with malware that encrypts data and holds systems hostage unless a payment is made, typically in cryptocurrency.