Russian hackers attack Harlingen Police Department | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

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The Harlingen Police Department is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy: Harlingen Police Department/Facebook)

HARLINGEN — State officials Tuesday were investigating a Russian extortion group’s breach of the Harlingen Police Department’s data technology system.

The Texas Department of Public Safety’s Cyber Security unit launched its investigation Monday after city officials reported the police department’s data system had been attacked at about 2 a.m. Monday, City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the hackers encrypted the department’s data while failing to steal data.

“We don’t think anybody took anything from our system,” Gonzalez said.

Officials store back-up data in a cloud data base, he said.

“None of our data was lost because we store it up in the cloud,” he said.

The hackers are believed to be part of a Russian cyber extortion group, sources said.

“We’re not talking to anybody,” Gonzalez said.

The city’s financial data was not attacked, officials said.


At about 2 a.m. Monday, the hackers attacked the police department’s data system, Gonzalez said.

“Early Monday morning, the city of Harlingen’s security monitoring systems in place notified city staff of a potential cyber concern regarding a city work computer,” spokeswoman Cristina Garcia said in a press release.

At 4 a.m., city officials discovered the breach, Gonzalez said.

By 6 a.m., officials had shut down the city’s data system, he said.

To protect the system, officials cut off the city’s telephone and internet services.

“To ensure all internet-connected systems are protected, the city of Harlingen’s information technology department shut down phone and internet services across all city departments, as an enhanced safety measure to protect the city’s network,” Garcia said. “Residential services were not affected, by the precautionary measure, at any time.”

“City departmental phone lines were reviewed for safety and placed back online Monday morning,” she said. “Currently, the city’s IT department is working to ensure all cyber security systems and work computers are functioning as intended and the internet service will be restored to all departments within a few days. Additionally, all city departments remain operational.”

Rebuilding date system

On Wednesday, the state’s Cyber Security team was expected to complete its investigation, Gonzalez said.

“They feel comfortable with what we’re doing,” he said.

Now, officials are rebuilding parts of the data technology system.

“All this is is an inconvenience,” Gonzalez said. “We’re just going to rebuild our data. We’re reformatting hard drives. We should be 100% by the end of the week.”

Years ago, officials purchased security software to shore up the city’s data technology system, Gonzalez said.

“Because of the times we live in, we made major improvements to the IT department years ago so if something like this happened, we could overcome it so we wouldn’t inconvenience the public,” he said.

About seven years ago, Chinese hackers attacked the municipal court’s technology system, encrypting data while demanding a ransom of 2,500 bitcoins, Gonzalez said.

Officials did not negotiate with the extortion ring, he said.

“We don’t play that game,” he said.


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