New Orleans cyberattack still very much a mystery

No word on timetable for computer restoration

don-ames
December 14, 2019 - 7:49 am

The City of New Orleans says there's no estimate for when computer service will be restored to New Orleans government offices after a Friday morning cyberattack forced workers to shut down their computers and disconnect from the internet.

City, state and federal authorities are investigating the attack, but Mayor Latoya Cantrell said that not much was known as of Friday afternoon. 

The attack was first detected around 5 a.m. on Friday, according to New Orleans IT Director Kimberly LaGrue. When employees arrived for work around 8 a.m. the suspicious activity increased and by 11 a.m. employees were notified that a cyberattack was underway.

The New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness issued an internal text to all city employees.

Mayor Cantrell said that investigators “detected ransomware,” but no ransom requests have been made and the exact nature of the attack is still unknown.

LaGrue added that phishing attempts were made to obtain city employees login credentials and security clearances, but they were unsuccessful. 

It is still unclear how the system was compromised, LaGrue said.

Services impacted include:

All City Hall offices
NOPD computers -- operating through radio only
EMS computers -- operating through radio only
Clerk of Criminal Court -- operating with internal database and paper records

Services not impacted:

911 -- operates on a separate server
Civil Court -- operates on a separate server
Parking enforcement -- tickets are still being issued

“We can operate without internet, without city network,” Director of Homeland Security Colin Arnold said. “We will go back to marker board, we will go back to paper. Police, fire, EMS, we can operate and we have trained to do that.”

The City’s real-time crime camera system is still up and running. 

Officials also said the city’s payroll system was not affected by the attack at all.

Some additional services are still running for residents who need them.

311 has the capability to take phone calls for people who need to reach the Department of Safety and Permits.

Here are specific numbers for agencies within the Department of Safety and Permits, while services are offline:

504-658-7130 Building Inspections

504-658-7145 Electrical

504-658-7153 Mechanical

504-658-7170 School Buses and Taxis

The city's website, NOLA.gov, has been unavailable since the attack on Friday afternoon. Employees at city hall are unable to use computers to complete work. 

A ransomware attack hit several Louisiana state government computers last month. The state quickly shut down network traffic to prevent the spread, and have brought most state offices back online since. The ransomware attack damaged 10% of Louisiana’s computer servers for state government. But officials say no data was lost and no ransom was paid.

Friday evening, Gov. John Bel Edwards responded to Cantrell's request for an emergency declaration. Edwards said he would extend the currently active state of emergency, which was put in place to assist with recovery after the statewide attack, because it allows the state government to assist the city of New Orleans with their new incident. 

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