After Texas Hack, Local Governments Go Offline for Safety

Grayson County and the city of Denison have opted to temporarily disconnect external web-based services after nearly two dozen cities and counties reported a coordinated ransomware attack last Friday.

by Drew Smith, Herald Democrat / August 20, 2019
Credit: Shutterstock

(TNS) — After nearly two dozen Texas cities and counties reported a ransomware attack last Friday, Grayson County and Denison have opted to temporarily disconnect their external, web-based services. The move is meant to protect the county and city from any related digital attacks but has interrupted public access to a number of online services.

In a news release issued Sunday, the Grayson County Operations of Emergency Management said county offices were unable to send or receive emails, receive e-filings, issue birth, death or marriage records, or receive web-based inquiries.

Grayson County Judge Bill Magers and Grayson County Emergency Management Director Sarah Somers both said Monday that the county had not been targeted in the attack, but officials ceased connections out of an abundance of caution.

"The public can still call our offices, go to court, call 9-1-1, receive citations, pay fines, pay their taxes, go to or stay in jail and obtain vehicle registrations," the release said.

The Texas Department of Informantion Resources reports that a total of 23 entities were targeted in the ransomware attack and the majority of those were smaller, local governments. Ransomware attacks are a form of hacking and individuals often threaten to publish or block access to digital files and interrupt operations.

Denison issued a news release Monday that said it had not been affected by the attacks either, but had also moved to briefly disconnect its online information systems. During the off-line period, city staff are not expected to have access to email, card payments will not be accepted at city hall, and the SNAP Center's public computers will not be connected to the internet. Denison's city website remains operational.

"The city of Denison treats all cybersecurity threats seriously and is exercising extreme caution by disconnecting its systems from the internet," the release said. "It should be noted that the personal information of residents and customers is not at risk."

As of Monday, Sherman's online services were still up and unaffected. A statement from the city's information technology department encouraged staff to use caution while online and to remain aware of the risk for possible network breaches.

Grayson County officials said they hoped to begin restoring services Tuesday or as soon as possible.

Jurors summoned to court this week are still required to report. Lawyers with cases scheduled this week are advised to operate under the assumption that all dockets will progress as planned. With e-filing unavailable, county clerks can be found in their offices, during normal business hours. E-filing documents submitted after 5 p.m. last Friday may not have been received and during the service outage, public wireless internet networks will not be accessible in the Grayson County Courthouse.

©2019 the Herald Democrat (Sherman, Texas). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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