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Latest city ransomware attack: New Orleans

The city of New Orleans declared a state of emergency as the government tries to get systems back online following a ransomware attack Friday morning.

New Orleans, the latest city to fall victim to a ransomware attack, has declared a state of emergency while remediating the threat.

Kim LaGrue, CIO for New Orleans, said in a press conference that suspicious activity was seen on the government network at 5 a.m. Friday morning. The malicious activity escalated, including phishing attempts, leading the city to determine a cyberattack was underway and shut down systems.

The declaration of a state of emergency was filed at approximately 6 p.m. Friday in response to the city ransomware attack.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a public statement to WDSU today that no formal demands were made in connection to the city ransomware attack. She said the attack was "similar, however different" from the ransomware attack on the Louisiana state government in November but could not say if it was the same threat actors or malware involved.

Cantrell tweeted updates to the remediation efforts, saying earlier today that "the city remains actively involved in recovery efforts," and detailed the impact on various city agencies. Cantrell noted that some departments, like the Health Department, would have difficulty accessing files, but government services were generally not severely affected beyond moving to manual processes.

"The city of New Orleans, we have been preparing ourselves for this with the improvements that have been put in place with infrastructure and with the daily routine checks -- cyber checks -- allowed our team to catch it very early," Cantrell told WDSU. "So now we're in recovery mode."

The daily routine checks -- cyber checks -- allowed our team to catch it very early.
LaToya CantrellNew Orleans Mayor

Cantrell said that while the city ransomware attack was caught early, 400 servers were affected and 4,000 computers needed to be "scrubbed." In total, about 7,000 terabytes of data were affected, she said.

The city of New Orleans did not respond to requests for comment at the time of this post. A spokesperson in the Louisiana state Office of Risk Management said the state government has been contributing to the Louisiana Cybersecurity Commission and the Stephenson National Center for Security Research and Training at LSU to help local municipalities deal with cyberattacks.

New Orleans is just the latest local government entity hit with ransomware this year. Research showed at least 24 ransomware attacks against state and local governments in the first four months of 2019, including in Baltimore and Atlanta.

Additionally, the Louisiana state government was hit with ransomware twice in 2019. Pensacola, Fla., dealt with a city ransomware attack earlier in December; Jackson County, Ga., had an attack in October; and 22 local municipalities in Texas were hit by ransomware in August.

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