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Ransomware Attack Disrupts Courts, Other Services in Dallas

The attack hit on Wednesday, and it has caused court closures, problems with the city's 311 app and an outage for police websites. It also has the potential to disrupt online payments.

Screenshot of the City of Dallas website. It displays the notice, "The City is experiencing a service outage and is working to restore services. We appreciate your patience during this time." A  clickable button directs site visitors to "get up to date information on Twitter."
The city of Dallas website displayed a service disruption notice on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A ransomware attack has compromised several of Dallas' servers, city officials reported on Wednesday.

The incident led to courts closing for two days so far, while also impacting services such as police websites, online payments and the city's 311 app. Fewer than 200 of the city’s devices were affected, officials said in a statement, noting that the department of Information and Technology Services (ITS) is “working around the clock to identify the source of the outage and isolate impacted devices.”

The team began working with vendors Wednesday to prevent further spread of the malware, eliminate it from affected servers and restore services. City officials first became aware of the cyber threat after security monitoring tools detected a likely ransomware attack and notified the Security Operations Center, per the city’s statement.

The Police Department home page has gone down as a result of the incident, remaining offline as of Thursday morning. Website outage aside, the city said fire and police services are “unaffected,” and 911 calls “continue to be received and dispatched."

The Dallas City Hall website also remained partially down as of early Thursday, with a few parts working. The site displayed a notice informing visitors that “the city is experiencing a service outage and is working to restore services.”

Screenshot of a web browser attempting to connect to the URL. The browser displays a notice reading "The page cannot be displayed because an internal server error has occurred."
Dallas' city website was unavailable Wednesday afternoon, May 3, 2023

The fire department reported issues with its computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) system, and pointed to the cyber incident as the likely culprit, according to The Dallas Morning News. Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesperson Jason Evans told the paper that the fire department had been forced to revert to manual dispatch.

Other downed services have gone to manual operations, too. Amid the two-day closure of the courts, the city is resetting all cases and sending relevant notices by mail, telling CNN that with the system down, officials are unable to look up citations and traffic tickets.

The city has directed residents to turn to 311 for help, should they have trouble accessing services. But the incident affected the 311 app, per The Dallas Morning News. Interactive voice response (IVR) and live 311 agents were available, however. Finally, residents attempting to make payments online might also experience delays.

This isn’t the first cybersecurity or IT issue to impact Dallas this year.

In April, a network outage caused the city to cancel a council meeting. The incident affected “all city departments, including 311 and Dallas Water Utilities,” the city said at the time. Impact extended to the 311 phone line, app and online portal, as well as the payment process for the Dallas Water Utilities, both online and via IVR.

The city also suffered another ransomware attack in 2022, which downed the Dallas Central Appraisal District website for more than two weeks.