New Orleans Becomes Latest City To Suffer Ransomware Attack
The cyberattack caused the city to completely shut down its network for several days, but did not affect emergency services.
- By Haley Samsel
- Dec 16, 2019
Just a week after the government in Pensacola, Florida suffered outages due to a cyber attack, the New Orleans city government was effectively shut down on Friday by a ransomware attack.
The city’s website remained down as of Monday morning due to the attack, which was first detected at about 5 a.m. on Friday morning, according to city officials. Reports of suspicious activity, mostly in the form of a wave of phishing emails sent to employees, led the government to shut down the city’s computer system around 11 a.m.
Emergency services, including police, the fire department and emergency medical services, were not affected by the outage, as responders were able to use radio equipment to take calls. Dispatching services from the Orleans Parish Communication District, which directs the city’s 911 and 311 lines, was not impacted by the shutdown, according to NOLA.com.
"One positive about being a city that has been touched by disasters ... is our plans and our activities reflect the fact that we can operate without the internet and without a city network," Collin Arnold, New Orleans' homeland security director, told NOLA.com.
Officials said on Friday that they had not received an official ask for a ransom payment, but that they detected ransomware activity on their network before shutting it down.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced on Sunday evening that City Hall will be open during normal business hours on Monday, but that the New Orleans municipal and traffic courts will be closed. In addition, the health department will have “limited connectivity and difficulty accessing files and data,” according to a memo from the mayor’s office.
“Healthcare for the Homeless will be unable to see patients due to the inability to access electronic health records,” the memo said. “They will have all regular sites fully staffed and will be using paper records to reschedule patient appointments when individuals arrive.”
While the city’s information technology department works to address the problems caused by the cyber attack and ensure that no critical data is stolen, the nola.gov website will remain down. In its place, a temporary webpage has been set up for residents to make 311 requests, pay sales, use and parking taxes and pay parking or camera tickets, the mayor said.
Just last month, the Louisiana state government faced a ransomware attack of its own, leading the state to shut down several hotlines for a day or so. Government officials said they did not pay a ransom and did not suffer significant data loss as a result of the attack.
Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.