The city of New Orleans has declared a state of emergency after a suspicious cyberattack hit the city’s network last December 15.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell treated the attack serious enough as all data from the local government can be affected. The city Informal Technology department gave orders to all employees to shut down everything and disconnect from the Wi-Fi connection. All city servers were powered down and all devices were unplugged.
New Orleans preparedness campaign, NOLA, reported the incident via Tweet, saying, “Suspicious activity was detected on the City’s network. Activity indicating a cybersecurity incident was detected around 11 am.”
Mayor Cantrell confirmed the incident during a press conference, clarifying that emergency communications were not affected. It was clarified that public safety cameras are still running and incident footage can be requested if needed. Fire and police departments are all on standby and operate as usual.
The suspicious activity happened at 8 am last December 15, with indications of phishing and ransomware. City IT department head Kim LaGrue said that servers and network detected the phishing incident but confirmed that no data was stolen.
Director of Homeland Security Collin Arnold said, “If there is a positive about being a city that has been touched by disasters and essentially been brought down to zero in the past, is that our plans and activity from a public safety perspective reflect the fact that we can operate with internet, without city networking.”
According to Arnold, the whole New Orleans local government has gone back to pen and paper for now.
Government Organizations as Targets
Last October, the FBI issued a high-impact cyberattack warning to all local government organizations. Health, Industrial, and transportation organizations are being targeted. However, even after the issued warning, some local government organizations still experienced cyberattacks.
The ransomware attack in New Orleans was reported similar to Louisiana’s cyberattack back in July. The state mayor also declared a state of emergency and ordered district offices and schools to shut down computers. However, security personnel is still trying to check whether or not the two incidents are related or connected.
The only sure thing is, there are threat actors who are looking into government servers and networks to get valuable data and information.
Lucy Security, a security awareness training company, reiterated that the government should be ready and fully equipped to prevent cyberattacks. CEO Colin Bastable said, “CISOs must focus on technological defenses when they should also be patching their colleagues with regular simulated ransomware attacks and security awareness training.”
Federal state and local officials are already involved in the security incident.