‘Community needs to feel secure:’ West Texas towns amp up security following Russian hackers infiltrating water systems | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

LUBBOCK, Texas— West Texas cities are learning how to combat cyber security threats after a Russian hacking group breached their water systems and facilities earlier this year. 

Muleshoe and Abernathy confirmed to that its systems were hacked on January 18. Hackers attempted to breach Lockney and Hale Center water facilities but were unsuccessful.

Don Provost, city manager of Abernathy, said although he was concerned when he first heard about the breach, he knew federal agencies were tending to the issue.

Provost said videos were posted by the hackers executing the cyber attacks carried out on January 18. This prompted the FBI to respond and investigate.

“As soon as they posted that of course, the Homeland Security and FBI contacted us, that’s how we kind of found out about it, that [it] was an actual attack,” Provost said.

Muleshoe’s water systems were compromised, causing a tank at their water facility to overflow.

Provost said while their system was compromised, no damage was done and since then, they’ve stepped up their cyber security.

“If there’s a silver lining in it at all was the fact that it did stress test our system and we were able to identify our vulnerabilities and it took measures, we did upgrade our entire network,” Provost said. “I would probably be safe to say we’re one of the one of the most secure cities at this point in the state.”

Hale Center city manager, Mike Cypert, said their city avoided the hackers at the last minute by essentially disconnecting from the internet and having their IT department secure their databases and portals, but they noticed a suspicious IP address that would help lead the FBI to the culprits.

“I kept seeing another one reoccurring and so later in the day I went and looked at it and it came from I can verify it came from Saint Petersburg Federation of Russia,” Cypert said. “I took a picture of that as well, and I sent it over… 45 seconds later, the FBI called and they wanted that file.”

Both Provost and Cypert said they don’t believe they were targeted specifically and their towns are not in any immediate danger. 

“I don’t think we were a high-priority target, I think we were more a target of opportunity, you hear hackings every day,” Cypert said. “They’re going on everywhere, I think ours was just our turn in the bucket.”

Cypert said he requested more resources on cyber security for his city through the government, which he said he is glad they can utilize.

“The Department of Information Resources has contacted us and they’ve made resources available to us once we get everything up and rolling and complete the way we like it, they will come in and do a test to try to see how really secure we are, and that will come from the federal government,” Cypert said. “I mean, there’s communities with one or two people in their water department out there, and that community needs to feel secure.”

Both city managers wanted to assure their citizens that their safety is their number one priority, and they will continue to protect them as technology and hackers continue to advance. 


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