Mar 26, 2024 - News

Hackers demanded $700,000 after attacking Tarrant County appraisal site

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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A group that took responsibility for hacking the Tarrant Appraisal District's website has reportedly demanded a $700,000 ransom from the agency.

Why it matters: The appraisal district's website has been partially down for several days because of the ransomware attack, with no timeline for when it will be fully restored.

The big picture: Ransomware attacks are on the rise nationwide, often targeting critical government infrastructure. Restoring access is costly, time-consuming and tedious for affected businesses and organizations.

What happened: Tarrant County launched its new appraisal district website this month. On Thursday, the district said it was investigating a "network disruption" on the site.

  • Investigators confirmed a "criminal ransomware attack" and informed the FBI and the Texas Department of Information Resources, appraisal district officials told NBC5.
  • Email, phone services and the property search feature remain offline, per the website.
  • Homeowners and Realtors typically use the website to view appraised value history for properties.

The latest: District officials held an emergency meeting Monday to discuss the breach.

  • A Dallas cybersecurity attorney representing the district said the hackers have threatened to release sensitive information, but officials don't know whether the group has any information of that nature, the Star-Telegram reported.
  • The attorney said the district is weighing its options, but doesn't want to pay the hackers, per the Star-Telegram report.

Flashback: In late 2022, the Dallas Central Appraisal District website was down for several weeks due to a ransomware attack, delaying tax bills for thousands of property owners.

  • That December, the Travis Central Appraisal District was hit with a separate ransomware attack that shut down an online chat and phone lines.

What we're watching: If any sensitive information was taken in the attack on the Tarrant Appraisal District website and if the county will end up paying the hackers to restore service.

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