Texas Confirms No Payment Over Ransomware Attack

The US state of Texas has shown city officials in Florida the best practice for dealing with ransomware attacks, by not paying the hackers.

Last month small local government departments in the US state of Texas had their IT systems knocked offline after a “co-ordinated” ransomware attack “from one single threat actor”.

It then emerged that the hackers were demanding $2.5m ransom from local authorities in Texas, in exchange for the key that decrypts the locked files..

Texas ransomware

The Texas attack came after a string of ransomware attacks on school networks in the US state of Louisiana in July led to Governor John Bel Edwards to declare a ‘state of emergency’ in order to give the state access to assistance from federal and public bodies.

And Texas it seems is not giving into the hackers demands.

In an update, the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) – which is leading the investigation into the incident – said more than half of the affected entities have resumed usual operations.

DIR also said that it was unaware of any ransom being paid.

“This coordinated state and federal response to a statewide, multi-jurisdictional cybersecurity event was the first of its kind and was a tremendous success,” said the DIR. “Through the dedication and vision of the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer at the Texas Department of Information Resources, a response plan was in place and ready to be put into action immediately.”

“I am proud of the work of Department of Information Resources’ information security team and grateful for the partnership with the many state and federal agencies who joined in our response to this incident,” said Amanda Crawford, executive director, Texas Department of Information Resources.

“I also want to recognise the impacted entities for working with our responders to get this resolved quickly while still protecting the integrity of the federal investigation,” said Crawford. “It was this team effort along with advanced preparation that allowed a very critical situation to be resolved quickly and with minimal impact for Texans.”

City attacks

In May a ransomware attack crippled local government services in the city of Baltimore.

That city refused to pay the hackers, despite email accounts being disabled and online tax payments unable to be processed.

That city estimated losses of around $18m (£15m) from the attack. The hackers had demanded $100,000 worth of Bitcoin.

But other US cities have opted to pay.

Florida-based Lake City has a population of over 12,000 people, and it opted to pay hackers after a ransomware attack.

The Lake City decision to pay the hackers $500,000 (£394,000) was aided by the fact that insurance would cover most of the ransom.

It came after the council of another city in Florida (Riviera Beach City) voted unanimously to pay hackers $600,000 who took over their computer systems via a ransomware attack earlier this year.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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