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New Orleans Cyber Security Attack: What We Know

Dec 16, 2019
Originally published on December 16, 2019 6:30 pm

Updated 6:27 p.m.

Starting Tuesday, specialists will be going computer by computer checking for infiltration from Friday's ransomware attack on New Orleans city government. Ransomware infects a computer or network and encrypts its data so that it becomes unusable unless the owner pays a ransom. The engineers have more than 4,000 individual computers to get to before city operations can return to normal, and Mayor Latoya Cantrell said that work will likely go into next week.

"This is a very serious situation. Security breach is one of public safety, and we're taking it just as that -- very serious," Cantrell said during a press conference Monday afternoon.

New Orleans Chief Information Officer Kim LaGrue said the city was prepared for a ransomware attack, and that all the targeted data is backed up.

"Our strategy to recover our data and return systems to normal is working," LaGrue said. In addition, LaGrue said the ransomware never progressed far enough to demand a ransom. 

City officials say the FBI, state police and other law enforcement agencies are still investigating to determine the extent of the hack, where it came from and how hackers got into the system.

While engineers do their work, many city employees are not allowed to turn on their computers, and are unable to access the databases and technology they rely on. That includes the police, who say they can't run background checks. Cantrell said she's asking city employees to get creative about taking care of business.

"Continue to work, manually if necessary, but also getting work done," she said. 

Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano said the cost of rebuilding the city's computer network is nearing $1 million. But he's hoping the city's cyber attack insurance will cover the cost.

Updated 2:27 p.m.

More than 4,000 computers have been impacted as a result of Friday's cybersecurity attack on New Orleans city government, according to a statement from City Council president Helena Moreno.

"It will take some time to bring all regular city systems back online, and public safety is the priority," Moreno said in a statement emailed Monday.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell's office says city hall will be open during its regular hours and that all city employees are expected to report to work. But many employees are unable to use the computers and technology systems they normally rely on to do their jobs.

According to the mayor's office, the New Orleans Police Department continues normal operations, but are documenting incidents manually.

WWNO will have more information after the Mayor's press conference at 4 p.m. Monday.

According to the Associated Press, hackers also targeted two Louisiana sheriffs offices over the weekend, in Washington Parish and Rapides Parish.

The Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles and several other state agencies were targets of ransomware attacks in November.

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