New Orleans City Services Hit With Cyberattacks

Louisiana’s biggest city, New Orleans, home to one of the country’s biggest ports, has been hit with a series of cyberattacks that have been spreading across the state, according to a report by CNBC.

The emergency Twitter account for New Orleans, “NOLA Ready,” sent out five ominous messages on Friday (Dec. 13) about “suspicious activity” on the city’s networks, and then later told residents that it had “activated its Emergency Operations Center.”

One of the tweets informed the city’s residents that it was working with “cybersecurity resources” from the National Guard, the Secret Service and the FBI. Emergency resources like 911 and fire rescue were still operational, the city said. It was not stated whether any agencies were shut down.

Two previous attacks, in July and November, affected other parts of the state. Those were ransomware attacks, which demand money in exchange for giving users control of their systems. Many city officials are tasked with making quick decisions to either acquiesce and pay the ransom or end up paying more when trying to fix the issue.

The previous attacks cobbled phones and encrypted data at the governor’s office, schools, the Medicare system and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Both times, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards was forced to declare a state of emergency.

The new attacks were not confirmed as ransomware, but they affected city services. On Friday (Dec. 13), City Hall told workers, including police officers, to unplug their computers. The attack started at 11 a.m., according to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Ransomware has been becoming more widespread; Atlanta, Baltimore and multiple cities in Florida have all been affected in the past year. In August, 23 Texas towns were hit in a coordinated attack.

“Out of an abundance of caution, all employees were immediately alerted to power down computers, unplug devices and disconnect from Wi-Fi. All servers have been powered down as well,” NOLA Ready tweeted.