No, that Nigerian prince does not want to wire you millions of dollars.
If you are especially unlucky, the person on the other end of that email might be looking to take over your city’s computer system and hold it hostage.
That’s what happened last week across Texas. While Brazoria County was spared from the online attacks, many city leaders responded not by ignoring other people’s misfortune, but instead taking the opportunity to educate staff on ways to make sure a similar situation doesn’t happen here. This was the right approach and should be closely watched by officials in cities that did not follow similar steps.
City leaders across the state learned hard lessons after 22 municipalities were targeted by ransomware attacks. According to The Associated Press, ransomware spreads through email links or attachments and takes over the server until a set dollar amount is paid.
Brazoria County leaders were right to focus on educating staff instead of counting their lucky stars they were spared from such attacks.
Lake Jackson city workers were walked through steps to keep systems secure and watched webinars to better understand the issues other cities faced.
“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,” Lake Jackson City Manager Bill Yenne said. “You can’t get complacent.”
And that last sentence is what matters. The internet is a constantly changing landscape of threats and vulnerabilities. Those annoying updates you keep putting off? Often they are security patches the manufacturer or software developer discovered and is try trying to fix before a would-be hacker gets in your computer.
Freeport officials were made aware of last week’s attacks, and Brazoria City Manager Olan Massingill had plans to watch a webinar on the events.
These officials did two things right: They stayed informed, and they took steps to protect their cities from suffering similar fates as those that were attacked. Perhaps this weighted sense of preparation is what kept them safe in the first place.