Security upgrades after ransomware attack against TAD | #ransomware | #cybercrime

The Chief Appraiser said the new website is safe and secure from hackers. But they are still advising homeowners to change all of their passwords.

TARRANT COUNTY, Texas — With new board members joining after the May 4 primary, the Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD) is another step closer to giving their organization a much-needed overhaul after vicious ransomware from hackers. 

In March, the personal information of nearly 300 homeowners ended up on the dark web. 

The board voted Monday to use general funds to hire a cybersecurity consultant and spend $230,000 for new network equipment. During the meeting, one of the people who signed up for public comment dropped a bombshell. 

“I took it upon myself to figure out how to surf the dark web,” said Chandler Crouch.

Chandler Crouch is a Tarrant County Realtor who is known for his expertise in protesting appraisal estimates by TAD. Crouch claimed his search on the dark web uncovered social security numbers and banking passwords for at least one homeowner who had not been contacted by TAD. That means TAD’s third-party security firm could discover even more victims. 

Joe Don Bobbitt is the new Chief Appraiser and received a ransom demand for $700,000 from hackers in March who threatened to post sensitive information. TAD  reportedly contacted the victims advising them of the breach and how to start protecting themselves. 

Now, the bombshell from Crouch comes with more work for the security firm.

“They’re going to actually review all of that information and see exactly what else is out there,” said Bobbitt.

The Chief Appraiser also said the new website is safe and secure from hackers. But they are still advising homeowners to change all of their passwords. 

TAD has also been criticized for its appraisal protest season experience. This is Jesus Camarillo’s first time protesting his estimate from the Tarrant Appraisal District.

The recent rise in the cost of living left Camarillo no choice but to visit TAD Headquarters to get his property appraisal lower. The protest paid off big too. 

“They brought it from $332,000 value down to $305,000.00,” said Camarillo.

The new estimate will mean paying less in property taxes and that will help his family’s budget as well.

“Everything went up. When we go to the grocery store we spend three times more than we were,” said Camarillo.

To his surprise, he said the process only took five minutes.

Tarrant County homeowners are seeing less controversial estimates this year than previous years. Many residential protest deadlines are set for May 15, 2024. 

Still, Chandler Crouch suggests even if your appraisal comes back significantly lower, all homeowners should participate in the appraisal protest process.

“In some counties, it was up 20% in one year. This year we’re seeing about a 6% appreciation, which is it’s doesn’t have the shock factor. And then when it translates to our tax bill that we’re getting even more breaks in our tax bill,” said Crouch, “People should protest even if their property value has decreased. That’s because the value increase or decrease does not give you any information as to the accuracy of that number. The number could have gone down and still be inaccurate.”

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