IE11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Hackers Demand $700K from Tarrant Appraisal District

The district has hired a cybersecurity attorney who spoke Monday during an emergency meeting.

Illustration of a laptop screen that shows a keyhole symbol above the words "Your files have been locked!" and a button that says "pay." Red background.
Hackers who attacked the Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD) have set an initial ransom of $700,000, county officials said during an emergency meeting Monday.

The group has threatened to release sensitive data if the demand is not met. However, district officials are unaware if any information has been compromised. The hackers have not identified themselves, but the district believes the hacking group Medusa may be behind the ransomware attack, said Lindsay B. Nickle, a Dallas cybersecurity attorney hired by the district.

“At the present time, no decisions have been made,” Nickle said. “Nobody wants to pay a ransom. The investigation is ongoing, and we’re looking into all of our options.”

The district experienced a “network disruption” that lasted a few hours on Thursday. Officials told the DMN that they took steps to secure the network and were working with independent cybersecurity experts to assess the incident.

The district reported the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Texas Department of Information Resources.

The district was the victim of a cyber attack in 2022, but an investigation found no taxpayer information was compromised.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported ransomware incidents were on the rise in 2023 with more than 2,825 complaints reported. That’s an 18 percent increase from 2022. Reported losses rose 74 percent, from $34.3 million to $59.6 million.

Several entities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have been affected by recent data security breaches.

Nearly 2,100 people were affected by a breach that included medical and health insurance information, addresses and dates of birth at UT Southwestern Medical Center earlier this month.

In October, hackers with the cybercriminal group ‘Play’ accessed Dallas County’s network. While the county’s cybersecurity detected and kicked the hackers before they shut down the system, the group stole data — mostly criminal case information accessible through public records requests — and posted it on the dark web.

Last year, hackers with the group Royal targeted the city of Dallas, resulting in a data breach that affected more than 30,000 people. The City Council voted in August to set aside $8.6 million to pay vendors for hardware, software, incident response and consulting services in response to the ransomware attack.

The Tarrant Appraisal District is responsible for property tax appraisal and exemption administration in Tarrant County.

©2024 The Dallas Morning News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.