City governments are taking preventative measures to secure their computer systems following a coordinated ransomware attack that targeted 22 Texas municipalities this week, prompting investigations by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
While the cities affected haven’t been made public, no Brazoria County city governments reported being a target of the attack, though many city managers said they are educating city workers to make sure their systems remain secure.
“We were walked through suggestions and we spent the afternoon on some webinars,” Lake Jackson City Manager Bill Yenne said. “We asked questions and went through training and walked through a multitude of things. It’s scary to realize people could do that to communities. You can’t get complacent.”
The Associated Press reported that ransomware spreads through email links or attachments and takes over the server until a set dollar amount is paid. The city of Keene was one of the municipalities under attack this week.
“We’ve been talking about (the attacks) and going through training,” Freeport City Manager Tim Kelty said. He added that Freeport was not affected and city officials were all made aware of the issue.
Officials from Oyster Creek and Jones Creek said they weren’t aware of any threats to their city servers but didn’t have details on preventative steps being taken in their municipalities.
Brazoria City Manager Olan Massingill said the city always tries to stay informed on the new ways hackers try to attack small governments.
“I was actually set up to watch a webinar about this attack,” Massingill said. “We were not affected as far as I know it. We take measures for any kind of viruses or malware, but strictly ransomware, no, we haven’t seen it. We just got measures in place to protect ourselves.”
Yenne said the best thing cities can do is stay in the know about how malware or hackers could infiltrate the server and take steps to prevent it.
“There are lots of things to consider,” Yenne said. “I was afraid to open any email. It wasn’t until we talked to the IT people that we understood more. Nothing’s perfect.”