Citrus, Manatee Co. property appraiser websites hacked

- Instead of being able to search properties or file for a homestead exemption, users of the Manatee and Citrus County Property Appraiser websites found a message saying the sites had been taken over by Iranian hackers.

"It scared our IT staff initially," said Mark Johns the Chief Deputy of the Manatee Co. Property appraiser.

Arabic writing filled the screen with a man's face and the red bold letters "we will avenge."

"It was just very strange. You just never think it's going to happen to your site or you," said Johns.

Overnight, the site went down.

Chief Deputy Mark Johns learned it was happening in other places, as well.

"We are understanding [it happened to] a number of other counties. We don't know which counties they were. They were not other Florida counties," he said.

All of the sites that went down are run by Tyler Technologies.

One thing the sites all have in common, is they are run by Tyler Technologies. The Salt Lake City-based software company serves 1,300 taxing authorities throughout the U.S and Canada.

Tyler hosts the counties’ websites, but all personal and confidential information is stored on a separate server, located in each county. Johns said that means no important or personal information was hacked.

"We feel very confident in our security systems set up. We have a lot of redundancy a lot of encryption. We take it very seriously and always keeping ourselves updated," he said.

Attacks like these continue to pop up across the country.

"Usually the bad guys get in through pushing or pulling," said Jeff Birnbach.

Jeff Birnbach with Sarasota cyber-security firm Sylint said pulling something like this off is not that hard for hackers.

"They are looking to exploit a vulnerability or they get pulled in. The user goes ahead and clicks on a link like a phishing like or a malicious link," he said.

Birnbach said the hacker could be anyone and finding the culprit could be nearly impossible.

"It could be a kid in his basement in Des Moines, it could be Iranian hackers. It could be anyone in the world," he said.

Tyler Technologies said it will continue to investigate and take every precaution to keep something like this hack from happening again. 

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