Firm To Investigate Appraisal District Info Leak

Tarrant Appraisal District
Tarrant Appraisal District | Image by Tarrant Appraisal District

The Tarrant Appraisal District voted on Monday to have a third party investigate whether its computer system was hacked.

An outside technology firm will determine whether taxpayers’ information was stolen in a possible breach following comments made by the district’s former director of information systems.

Cal Wood was recorded stating that he was “OK with creating a false narrative that distances the truth from the media” while discussing technological issues with the district’s website, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

These comments led to an investigation by board attorney Matthew Tepper, resulting in the termination of Wood on August 25, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD) Board of Directors Chairman Tony Pompa said the board asked Wood if the district performed an audit on the computer systems, and “he gave us an answer, but that’s come into question.”

“One set of staff says they think we were [hacked] and another set of staff thinks we weren’t,” he added, as reported by WFAA.

“We don’t really know for sure. That’s why our decision is to bring somebody from the outside to get in there, look at the data and information, and tell us unequivocally ‘Yes’ or ‘No.'”

Patricia Nolan, a former TAD employee, claims there was a hack and that it was an open secret between TAD employees, according to the Star-Telegram.

Board member Vince Puente said he believes a third-party audit is necessary since he is unsure whether Wood was “entirely truthful” during a testimony provided to the board.

“Again, whether that’s a lie or not, I don’t know,” said Puente to the board, per the Star-Telegram.

Ransomware attacks have made many local headlines recently, as Dallas reportedly dealt with an attack that began on April 7 and was not detected by city officials until May 3.

As a result, information from an estimated 30,253 people was exposed. Among those affected were current and retired city employees and their families, including children, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Dallas officials previously stated that the stolen information may include “full name, home address, Social Security number, date of birth, insurance information, clinical information, claims information, diagnosis, and other identifiers,” as reported by The Dallas Express.

Andrew Sternke, a cybersecurity expert, claimed that children could be impacted as they grow older, regardless of when the information was stolen.

“This information is released out onto the dark web to be sold,” he stated, according to The Dallas Express.

“When that kid turns 18, it’s a free-for-all, and that’s another concerning aspect: that it’s not just the adults we have to worry about.”

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