EDINBURG – Hidalgo County sheriff’s investigators and agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement are investigating a breach in the county’s e-mail system.
The incident reportedly happened just after 10 p.m. Friday.
Officials said an international hacker is believed to be the culprit responsible for breaking into the e-mail system. Information technology officials said a malicious message was sent out to employees Friday night.
Hidalgo County Chief IT Officer Renan Ramirez said the message contained foul language and pointed out the system’s vulnerabilities.
Ramirez said it’s unclear how many county employees opened the e-mails. He said the system was brought down 10 minutes later.
“It was an isolated incident. We contained it immediately,” Ramirez said.
“At this point, we have secured, we have absolutely made sure that the e-mail server is secure. No other county system was affected, as is our understanding, and no county data was comprised at all,” he said.
“It’s what they call the cyber terrorism … the wanting to upset you, wanting for you not to feel safe,” Ramirez said.
The e-mail also included sensitive information, but Ramirez emphasized it did not involve personnel data. Instead, he said, it’s related to the county’s network system, specifically security configuration information.
“The network configuration details would be on that e-mail and that means, location of equipment, configuration tables, access lists and such. At that point, whatever was being referred to was outdated (and) at this point all that has been changed,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez doesn’t believe the sensitive information compromises the entire network system.
“The first step was bring the affected system off line. Then we actually brought the entire county network off line and we reconfigured everything … changed every county password on every piece off equipment,” Ramirez said.
“We’ve since then also beefed up all the security at the county level and checked all the log files to see if anything else was compromised. At this time we have no indication that it was,” he said.
Ramirez is not sure how the breach happened. He said last week’s maintenance upgrades to the system may have created the vulnerability.
The original email is now in the hands of sheriff’s investigators and ICE agents.