City of Tyler officials explain website hack

City of Tyler Wesbite

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The City of Tyler’s website is still offline after it was compromised by a group of anti-government hackers. For nearly four days, residents have been unable to use the site to do things like pay for parking tickets and access other city services.

“Monday morning at 8:25 a.m., we were notified that our website was graffitied, and we contacted our vendor and brought the website down,”said Benny Yazdanpanahi, who serves as the chief information officer. “Within 15-16 minutes the website was taken down.”

Source: KLTV Staff
Source: KLTV Staff (Source: KLTV Staff)

Officials want the public to know, the website design is the only thing the group infiltrated. However, any time the system is compromised, it takes time and resources to make sure things return to normal operation.

“Think of it as putting graffiti on the Mona Lisa or even spray painting a car. In reality they are just menace,” Yazdanpanahi said.

The City of Tyler is investigating the work of what officials call “hack-tavists”

“There’s a group of folks who are anti-government going around the world and are graffitiing the front page of websites," said Yazdanpanahi. “That’s all the damage they’re doing.”

Source: KLTV Staff
Source: KLTV Staff (Source: KLTV Staff)

That damage leads to a domino effect of issues, which are now at the forefront of an ongoing investigation involving federal officials.

“Any time any government agency is under attack, Department of Homeland Security gets involved to find out where these groups are coming from,” Yazdanpanahi said. “Because they are not just attacking City of Tyler they are attacking every government agency and disrupting services.”

Disrupting services and finding vulnerabilities in local government agencies are things the City of Tyler is constantly protecting itself against.

“We have data that shows us the attempt of compromising from other countries, and you can see the majority of attacks are happening continuously,” Yazdanpanahi said.

With most pages on the City of Tyler’s website being hosted externally, no personal information was compromised in the hack.

“The good news is the website is not hosted locally. It’s hosted outside, so no citizens information has been compromised,” said Yazdanpanahi.

Basic page use options like paying a parking ticket or your water bill should still be available. But the process of getting things back up and running could take time.

“We have 600 HTML web pages and lots of links to make sure there is no vulnerability, and we’re doing our due diligence,” Yazdanpanahi said.

The city of Tyler is asking for the public’s help in reporting any problems with the pages that are available on their website. If you run into issues, they ask that you call city hall and report the problem. Their number is (903) 531-1100. There’s no timeline on when the website could be back up.

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