Was This Texan Town Targeted with Ransomware Due to Pending Investigations?

Edcouch, Texas was hit with ransomware approximately two weeks ago, and the timing is rather interesting…

Towards the end of May, another public municipality was hit with ransomware. The town of Edcouch, located in Texas, was the victim of a cyber attack, which targeted the town’s water department records. The city was asked to pay $40,000 in ransom demands by the hackers, in order to restore the files. Whether or not the city will pay is still unknown.

According to Edcouch officials, they reached out to local government when the cyber attack took place. From there they were led to the FBI, then Homeland Security.

Interestingly, the server the town was using was “state of the art” and considered somewhat overkill for such a small community. Although, the town failed to safeguard the hardware. According to The Monitor, there was not any backup or security software on the server itself.

To date, the data remains encrypted. However, some can’t help but speculate if this is tied to something else.

Impeccable Timing?

The water department is being investigated due to over half a million dollars in lost collection funds, and the ransomware specifically targeted the water department. Coincidence? Perhaps, but the speculation of something more still plagues the town.

The Investigation

The water department within the town of Edcouch is part of an ongoing investigation due to a loss of $650,000 in collections. The losses stem from nearly half of the city’s 1,000 water accounts being improperly billed, as well as from delinquent accounts. In addition, nearly half of the water meters were not working properly.

The problem stretched back four years, to when the city’s water meters were replaced with smart meters in 2015.

As the new City Manager, Hugo de la Cruz continued to look into the irregularities, he also discovered a “ghost meter” that was not registered on the city’s meter system or its billing system. This discovery led to the arrest of the former City Manager, Eduardo Gonzalez, and former water department supervisor Erica Saenz.

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