Dallas, TX

City of Dallas Reveals Royal Ransomware Breach with Stolen Account

DallasPhoto byUltra Unlimited/John Heinz

The City of Dallas, Texas, recently disclosed a significant cyberattack involving the Royal ransomware group, shedding light on the growing threat of cybercrime. According to city officials, the attack commenced with a stolen domain service account, highlighting the audacious tactics employed by cybercriminals.

Royal managed to infiltrate the city's network in early April, maintaining unauthorized access until May 4th. During this period, the attackers successfully exfiltrated a staggering 1.169 terabytes of sensitive data, as revealed through an analysis of system logs conducted by city officials and cybersecurity experts.

Photo byCity of Dallas

The ransomware gang meticulously prepared for the attack, deploying Cobalt Strike command-and-control beacons across the city's systems in anticipation of the ransomware deployment phase. The assault reached its peak at 2 AM on May 3rd, with Royal using legitimate Microsoft administrative tools to encrypt servers.

Upon detecting the attack, the city initiated mitigation efforts, temporarily shutting down high-priority servers to impede the progress of the cybercriminals. Simultaneously, it launched service restoration efforts, enlisting internal and external cybersecurity experts to assist in the recovery process.

The restoration process spanned over five weeks, from the revival of the financial server on May 9th to the recovery of the last affected server, the waste management server, on June 13th.

The ramifications of the breach were far-reaching, with personal information from over 30,000 individuals potentially exposed. This included sensitive data such as names, addresses, social security information, health details, and health insurance information. The financial impact of the attack has led the Dallas City Council to allocate a budget of $8.5 million for restoration efforts, with final costs to be determined.

Dallas, as the fourth-largest metropolitan area and the ninth-largest city in the United States, with a population of around 2.6 million people, underscores the severity of the attack and the potential consequences of cybercrime on a large scale.

The Royal ransomware group, believed to have originated from the Conti cybercrime gang, has gained notoriety for its relentless attacks on enterprises. Employing various tactics, from exploiting security flaws to callback phishing attacks, Royal exemplifies the escalating threat of cybercriminals targeting critical infrastructure and organizations worldwide.

The breach serves as a stark reminder of the urgency in bolstering cybersecurity measures to defend against increasingly audacious and sophisticated cyber threats. As cybercriminals continue to evolve, the need for proactive cybersecurity measures becomes paramount in safeguarding sensitive data and critical infrastructure.

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