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Texas governor says cyber attacks increase from inside Iran

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (left) and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (right), speaks to reporters after meeting with his Domestic Terrorism Task Force in the Capitol on Tuesday.

CHUCK LINDELL, AMERICAN STATESMAN/TNS

By CHUCK LINDELL | Austin American-Statesman | Published: January 7, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Websites belonging to Texas agencies have seen an increase in attempted cyber attacks coming out of Iran, amounting to about 10,000 per minute, in the previous two days, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday.

None of the attacks — which probed for weaknesses that would let hackers gather data, deny access to a website or post messages on a site — were successful, said Abbott and Amanda Crawford, head of the Texas Department of Information Resources.

Crawford said her agency, which monitors many state websites, looked for attempted incursions amid worsening relations with Iran since a high-ranking Iranian general was killed Friday in a U.S. drone strike.

And although analysts found an increase coming from inside Iran's borders, "we see literally billions of probes on a given day, really astronomical numbers that come through," from around the world, Crawford said.

Analysts had no way of knowing if the probes came from the Iranian government or were government-sanctioned, she said.

Abbott said the escalation in potential cyber attacks from inside Iran was the first "pressing issue" discussed Tuesday during the second meeting of his Domestic Terrorism Task Force, which was formed last year after a white gunman targeted Latinos in El Paso, killing 22 people at a Walmart.

Speaking to reporters after the Capitol meeting, which was held in private because security issues were discussed, Abbott urged local governments and Texas citizens to practice safe computing and directed those concerned to DIR.texas.gov for tips on "cyber hygiene."

"These attacks from Iran-based entities, as well as around the globe, are going to continue," Abbott said.

Manny Garcia, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, criticized Abbott's task force for ignoring "the real threats facing Texas today."

"Gun violence and white supremacist terrorism remains the number one domestic terrorist threat in Texas, yet Governor Abbott still refuses to call a common-sense special session to keep our families safe," Garcia said. "Texans are demanding real solutions to solve domestic terror threats, not half-measures and closed-door meetings aimed at scoring political points."

The task force's top goals, as stated by Abbott, are to develop strategies to identify homegrown terror threats and recommend solutions on stopping attacks before they occur.

Tuesday's meeting included Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, members of law enforcement and representatives of the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and Air National Guard.

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