Texas Department of Transportation Ransomware Attack Second This Week
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) suffered a ransomware attack. TxDOT announced that hackers compromised the agency’s network. This is the second ransomware attack this week targeting a Texas government agency. The announcement was made via social media, including Twitter.
TxDOT has not disclosed what ransomware was used or if it was the same as that used to attack the Texas court system last week. TxDOT also has not disclosed what systems were impacted by the ransomware attack. However, their normally real-time traffic camera website is showing information that is four days old. As of today, the agency’s main website home page is loading slowly and other pages are still not loading at all. There is a message that states, “Due to technical difficulties, some website features are unavailable. We are working to resolve this issue quickly.”
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On Friday, May 8 the Office of Court Administration (OCA), the information technology (IT) provider for the appellate courts and state judicial agencies within the Texas Judicial Branch announced they were also attacked with ransomware. This attack began at night on May 7 and carried on overnight. Cyber attacks often begin at night and on weekends when hackers believe there are less staff working to monitor networks. No sensitive or personal information was believed to be compromised during the OCA attack. With the initial announcement, the OCA Director of Public Affairs stated they will not pay any ransom to the hackers.
Texas Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware is a type of malware used to infect and control computers, servers, and other internet connected devices. A ransomware attack is often launched with an email attachment. The emails are sent as targeted phishing campaigns with convincing content that earns the trust of the reader. Information for the phishing campaigns is taken from social media, agency websites, press releases and other publicly accessible sources of information. If the reader opens a malicious email attachment, their computer can become quickly infected with malware. The infection can rapidly spread to the rest of the network connected devices too.
It is best to educate and train staff to spot phishing emails and to protect education with anti-malware software.
Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director James M. Bass said in a statement, “We want every Texan to rest assured that we are doing everything we can to swiftly address this issue. We also are working to ensure critical operations continue during this interruption.”
Last year, 23 townships in Texas were crippled by ransomware attacks. The Colorado Department of Transportation was attacked with SamSam ransomware in 2018. In that incident 2,000 computers, servers and network devices were involved.
As of today, the TxDOT website states, “Due to technical difficulties, some website features are unavailable. We are working to resolve this issue quickly.”
Keith has 30 years of experience managing staff for the planning and design of highway, bridge and transportation-related projects and specialty structures. Keith oversees the development of and authors numerous reports on a variety of topics related to transportation engineering and has worked with several key clients on projects related to infrastructure security. Keith is a licensed professional engineer in the State of New York, currently a State Board member of the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York and is a licensed commercial pilot with an instrument rating. He resides in Western New York.