Grayson Co. systems back online after ransomware attack concerns

After a coordinated ransomware attack took down systems operated by 23 entities in Texas on Friday, Grayson County isn't taking any chances.

After county officials said Sunday its government systems have been isolated from external resources "out of an abundance of caution," all systems were back online as of 4 p.m. Monday.

"Other cities and counties have experienced negative impacts from statewide, coordinated cyber-attacks," said Emergency Management Director Sarah Somers. "We have taken action to protect all our networks. Our networks remain sound."

Most of the systems affected in Friday's ransomware attack were operated by small, local governments in Texas. Ransomware is a type of malware that threatens to publish the victim's data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.

Somers said Grayson County residents can still call county offices, go to court, call 9-1-1, receive citations, pay fines, pay their taxes, go to or stay in jail and obtain vehicle registrations. The county website remains active.

"However, this does mean we are disconnected from some of the usual ways we interact with the public or with other government systems," Somers said in a media release. "For example, we cannot email you, receive e-filings, issue birth, death or marriage records, or receive web-based inquiries."

Jurors who have been summoned for jury duty in the coming week should still report, Somers said.

Somers asks for understanding from residents if some things are inconvenient this week.

Grayson County Judge Bill Magers explained the county's conservative approach.

"On Friday afternoon, we took steps to – in effect – pull in our drawbridge," Magers said. "We will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the information system used to serve our taxpayers."

The City of Denison is also taking measures to protect against the ransomware threat.

In a press release, the city said it has disconnected its information systems from the internet.

"While the City of Denison has not been directly affected by the attack, precautionary measures are being taken to maintain the integrity of the City’s information systems," the release stated.

While the City’s systems are offline, some resident services may not be available. The following list summarizes the impacts of taking the system offline:

• City Website. The City’s official website (www.cityofdenison.com) is still operational and should be monitored by residents for the latest information on any service disruptions.

• Phone Service. The City’s phone service is still operational and residents can reach staff through usual phone numbers.

• Payments. Residents and customers can still make payments in person at City Hall (300 West Main Street, Denison) using only cash and checks. No credit card payments can be accepted during the outage. This includes utility billing (water, sewer, trash, etc.), municipal court, and permits.

• Online Payments. Residents and customers can still use their credit card to pay for City services (utilities, municipal court, and permits) by visiting the City’s website: www.cityofdenison.com.

• Phone Payments. Utility billing payments can still be made using a credit card by calling 844-334-8201 with your account information.

• Payment Kiosk. The payment kiosk located on the south side of City Hall in Music Alley will not be accepting payments during the outage.

• 9-1-1 Service. No disruption to 9-1-1 service will take place.

• City Council Meeting. The City Council meeting scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Monday, August 19 will not be impacted by the outage and will take place as planned.

• City Staff Email. During the temporary outage, City staff will have little to no access to email messages. Residents who need immediate assistance should call the main City phone line at 903-465-2720.

• Denison Public Library. Denison Public Library remains in full service, including the ability to accept credit card payments.

• SNAP Center. Public computers located inside the SNAP Center (531 West Chestnut Street, Denison) will not have internet access.

The city said the personal information of residents and customers is not at risk. They expect the outage to be very temporary in nature and access to full services will be restored as soon as possible. The public will be notified immediately once service is restored.

This is a developing story. Watch News 12 tonight for updates.