Let's hope not! In case you missed the news, 23 municipalities across the State of Texas were hit by what appears to be a coordinated ransomware attack. News of the attack broke on Friday, August 16th. It sounds like a report from a war zone, but it's not...exactly.
Cyber attacks have long been talked of as being the new modern battlefield. While state sponsored cyber attacks are nothing new, a coordinated attack against so many municipalities in one state may be a game changer. It's too soon to tell and the attacker has not yet been identified. It's thought to be a single entity, but with nearly all resources focused on response and recovery, it may be some time before we learn more.
The fact that any bad actor, state sponsored or not, was able to launch a coordinated attack against so many municipalities is certainly a new escalation in the fight against cyber attacks. Attacks on local governments have been on the rise. On July 22nd, I published the post Could You Say No to Ransomware. In that post, I talked about the growing trend to refuse to pay ransom to hackers. Specifically, I mentioned the statement by the US Conference of Mayors stating they will not pay ransomware, should their municipalities be hit. Could this have been a dare to the would be hacker who just launched this attack in Texas?
There is a plus side to this coordinated attack. The State of Texas activated a cyber emergency response plan that brought the resources of the state Department of Information Resources (DIR), the Texas Military Department (who knew any state had this?), the Texas A&M University System's Security Operations Center (SOC), the Texas Department of Public Safety, and other emergency responders. As a result, it's thought to be very unlikely that anyone will be paying any ransoms with all of these resources on hand to recover impacted systems. You can read more details on the response in the alert issued by the DIR. The alert has some very interesting information, including a list of Cybersecurity Best Practices.
This latest even is unfolding in real-time. I'll post more, should important information come to light. In the meantime, this is a stark reminder to municipalities of all sizes to get focused on cybersecurity education for your workforce. In fact, it's a good reminder for everyone, business and consumer. Stay Safe Online!