$200,000 hacked from Gregg County

By Sara Story - bio | email

GREGG COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Hundreds of thousands of dollars are missing from an East Texas county. Officials say it's the work of a cyber hacker. An international cyber attack targeted the Gregg County Tax Assessor's office, getting away with $200,000. This money was supposed to go to school districts and cities, and these jurisdictions are left wondering if they'll ever get that money back.

"To say it is a disappointment doesn't even describe how bad it is. It's terrible," Gregg County Tax Assessor Kirk Shields said.

Sheilds's office collects taxes, then transfers them electronically through their bank to 14 jurisdictions county-wide. He said the thieves hacked into the November 23 distribution file and stole nearly $700,000. An employee at his office, who no longer works there, accidentally let the hackers in.

"Something that comes in your computer when you click on a link, either on an e-mail or through a website, and it causes persons to be able to take command of your computer," Shields said.

The Tax Assessor's Office was able to recover the majority of the stolen money, but $200,000 is still missing. These funds would have gone to seven different places, including Sabine Independent School District.

"Basically, what was taken in that day was $21,334...Yes, we will miss it because every dollar is earmarked for something in the district," Sabine ISD Superintendent Stacey Bryce said.

Bryce says the hijacked funds will not impact day-to-day operations at his Sabine ISD.

Longview ISD expected to receive about $250,000 on the day of the attack and are unsure how much is still missing. White Oak ISD, Kilgore ISD, and the City of Kilgore were also hit.

"We are now back to paper checks, and we will be doing that from now on," Shields said.

The Gregg County Tax Assessor says local and federal authorities are investigating this attack, and it is unclear if they will ever recover the money. Investigators say the hackers' web address traces to Moscow, Russia.

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