Johnson County town among 22 Texas ransomware targets

The Johnson County town of Keen learned that a computer problem last week was part of a large cyberattack.

It started on Friday when city employees got to work and initially thought the server was down. But then they got a call from state and federal authorities saying Keene had been attacked by ransomware.

Roughly 6,500 people who live in Keene can’t use a credit card to make payments on the city’s website for things like the water bill and court fees. The city can only accept cash or check.

The Texas Department of Information Resources says its working with federal agents to investigate the attack targeting more than 20 small governments and organizations in the state.

Ransomware is a type of malware that goes after a server or computer system and then asks for a payment.

Keene’s Economic Development Director Landis Adams says the attack is the first of its kind for the city.

“As far as the ransom itself, Keene as a whole was never notified and said ‘Okay, we want X amount of dollars and we’ll release everything,’” Adams said. “All we’re really focused on right now is getting services back to our citizens. Getting back to 100 percent and getting some normalcy.”

The water treatment plant’s computer system was also compromised - it’s used to monitor the plant.

But Keene’s public works director has switched to a manual monitoring system - and the water has remained unaffected by the attack.

Adams also says citizens don’t need to worry about personal information - none of it has been compromised.

He hopes the systems will be back online in a few days.

Federal agencies including homeland security and FEMA have been supporting the state to help bring affected governments and organizations back online.