On December 13, 2019, Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans, Louisiana declared a state of emergency after cyber criminals attacked the city’s network using sophisticated ransomware and phishing attempts. This attack is the latest in a string of attempts by hackers targeting entire city systems. The state of Louisiana has been targeted twice in six months, and in the past year, many other cities have experienced similar cyberattacks, including Jackson County, Georgia, Pensacola, Florida, and 23 separate cities across Texas.
According to TechCrunch, a spike in New Orleans’ system activity in the early hours of the day suggested hackers were sending out phishing and ransomware attempts to infiltrate the city’s data. Natural disaster preparations over the years have given New Orleans a leg up on facing such malicious cyber activity. Upon first signs of a cybersecurity incident, city officials and the city’s IT department quickly turned to their emergency preparedness campaign, NOLA Ready, and halted the attack by shutting down servers and computers. The city is reporting there has been no indication of significant data loss as a result, citing quick response as the key to reducing the impact of the attack.
Like any organization, state and local governments are vulnerable to the threat of cyberattacks. Large scale attacks like the one to New Orleans can potentially bring down emergency services if ransomware is deployed successfully, and a ransom is demanded to restore system access. It also puts employee and civilian Personally Identifiable Information (PII) at risk for identity theft. As we track regularly, data breaches as the result of cyberattacks are not slowing down, and the amount of data being leaked in a breach or security failure is only growing.
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