Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
More US towns have been hit by ransomware. Last Friday, 23 small Texas towns were affected by a coordinated ransomware attack that appears to have been pulled off by “one single threat actor,” according to the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR). A Texas DIR spokesperson told The New York Times that the majority of the targets were specific departments in the towns. In a statement to Gizmodo, the Texas DIR declined to specify which towns or departments, saying it did not want to make the “impacted entities” a target for other bad actors.
It’s not clear how these towns are dealing with the issue, but it doesn’t seem like they’re just paying up to make the problem go away. A DIR spokesperson told NPR that he was “not aware” of any of the affected towns paying the ransom. As of Monday, according to the Times, the affected departments remain offline. They may be trying to track down that single culprit first; NPR reports that the FBI and Texas cybersecurity experts are investigating the attack.
Without more information, it’s hard to know how big of a deal this attack is. On its surface, a coordinated attack by one actor that has brought departments in 23 towns offline is certainly worrisome, especially given the increasing number of ransomware attacks on city governments, with more than 22 cities targeted this year. But since we don’t know the full extent of the damage to affected agencies or if they’ll pay up, we’ll need to wait for the Texas DIR to share more about the attack before we know how successful it was. The DIR hasn’t published an update on its “Hot Topics” news page or tweeted anything since Saturday.