New Orleans hit by ransomware, city employees told to turn off computers

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NOLA New OrleansImage: mana5280

The city of New Orleans is dealing with a cyber-attack. The nature of the cyber-attack has been confirmed as a ransomware infection in a press conference held today by New Orleans officials.

The attack was discovered earlier today, at around 11:00 am, local time, a city spokesperson told ZDNet via phone call.

“Out of an abundance of caution, all employees were immediately alerted to power down computers, unplug devices & disconnect from the city’s WiFi,” said Beau Tidwell, a spokesman for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

The nola.gov website is also offline, being shut down with the rest of the city’s servers.

According to reports from local media outlets [1, 2], to make sure employees powered down computers as soon as possible, officials used the city hall’s public loudspeakers systems to alert employees of the cyber-attack.

Besides city hall, the incident also affected the New Orleans Police Department, which shut down its IT network in entirety as well.

Police officers are still in the field, unaffected, using radios and other backup communications services, although they don’t have access to historical data stored on the department’s servers.

On social media, New Orleans officials said that 911 emergency services were not affected.

In a press conference held today, Mayor Cantrell said the investigation into the attack is still ongoing, and that the city knows it’s ransomware, but they have not received or found a ransom demand yet.

Officials said the Louisiana State Police, FBI New Orleans, the Louisiana National Guard, and the Secret Service are helping the city investigate and recover from the attack.

This incident marks the third ransomware incident reported in the state of Louisiana.

In August, three school districts were hit by ransomware, prompting the Louisiana governor to declare a state emergency, the first one in the state’s history caused by a cyber-attack, rather than a natural disaster.

A second incident took place last month when a second ransomware attack encrypted data on the Louisiana state government’s IT network. Weeks after the attack, some state agencies are still having difficulties with accessing state data, although these are expected t be resolved by the end of the year.

New Orleans is the third major US city to deal with a ransomware attack in recent years after similar attacks have hit Atlanta (SamSam ransomware in 2018) and Baltimore (RobbinHood ransomware in 2019).

Article updated on December 13, 16:35 CST with information from Mayor Cantrell’s press conference. Title updated accordingly.

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