Dallas/ Politics & Govt
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Published on March 26, 2024
Tarrant Appraisal District Targeted by Ransomware Attack, Hackers Demand $700K in Fort WorthSource: Google Street View

The Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD) in Fort Worth, Texas is grappling with the aftermath of a ransomware attack, with hackers demanding a $700,000 ransom and threatening to release sensitive data, as reported by FOX 4 News. The district's website suffered two outages in as many weeks, with the second leading to the emergency board meeting held this past Monday to address the cyber onslaught.

At the meeting, the public voiced their concerns and frustrations, "You’re not going to make me or anybody else feel better by telling us things are better than they actually are, I want to know the hard unvarnished truth," relator Chandler Crouch expressed during public comment, this sentiment was echoed by property owner Jerald Miller who demanded better from TAD, as per details from the same FOX 4 News report; meanwhile, the stress on TAD's responsibilities peaks with an impending appraisal notice season where if unable to inform taxpayers of their property values, as TAD board member Gary Losada puts it, creates "a major problem on our hands."

Cybersecurity attorney Lindsay B. Nickle, who was hired by TAD, remains unsure if the attackers hold the data they claim, however Medusa ransomware, known to leverage extortion tactics, was identified as the likely culprit - a point substantiated in the Star-Telegram. The board's response included the approval of a $235,000 reallocation for enhanced cybersecurity measures, but not all board members were present for the decision, and TAD has refrained from fielding questions post-conclusion of the session.

Prior incidents of compromised security have marred TAD's history, with a 2022 attack exposing but not compromising taxpayer data, and a 2023 website crash that impeded online protests of property appraisals; these events have led to public admonishment and a plea for transparency and true reform from the likes of Chandler Crouch, "We may have some people here that need to go," he told Star-Telegram, indicating a distrust in lingering elements from TAD's past and during the emergency meeting on Monday afternoon, the board attempted to present a unified stance and several public speakers didn't shy away from reminding the board of TAD's tumultuous legacy.

Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare conveyed a hopeful attitude for the new chief appraiser and board to address these security incidents, stating, "hopeful" new chief appraiser Joe Don Bobbitt and the new board would resolve the security situation as well “other problems caused by the previous regime at TAD,” according to the Star-Telegram. As TAD continues to coordinate with the FBI and cybersecurity experts, the investigation into the attack remains ongoing as the district struggles to restore full operational capacity in the face of this digital breach.