Thousands of computers around the City of New Orleans office went offline, offices were locked, and the official government website was down due to a crippling ransomware attack, prompting declaration of an emergency.
According to reports, once the administrators of the affected systems realized the extent of the early morning cyber attack, they turned off all servers to disconnect them from the internet.
City of New Orleans officials told a press conference that all data and passwords were safe despite the attack. However, the Chief Information Officer of New Orleans city Kim LaGrue has not stated when operations would return to normalcy.
The attack started at around 5 am in the morning and suspicious activities in the network came to notice at about 8 am when all the city offices opened. Following an advisory from federal and state authorities at 11 am, officials asked all employees to turn off their terminals.
LaGrue confirmed that cybercriminals used a phishing attack targeting employees, followed by the ransomware attack. But there is no ransom claim yet. The FBI has teamed up with a bunch of experts from the Louisiana State Police and National Guard to launch an investigation.
There is no confirmation about the nature of the attack, the infection rate, the number of systems affected, or those involved. The kind of ransomware used in the attack is also not known.
Ransomware attacks on local cities and towns are increasing at an alarming rate. In July, the entire network of the school district in New Louisiana was bogged down due to a ransomware attack. In August, a total number of 23 government agencies in the State of Texas were taken down by another ransomware attack. Recently, a new ransomware called Maze took over the City of Pensacola in Florida and the attacker demanded $1 million as ransom.
In November, there was a ransomware attack mainly affecting the state Office of Motor Vehicles. Officials later reportedly paid the ransom money to the attackers following declaration of a state of emergency around the state. Major cities like Baltimore and Atlanta were also affected by similar attacks recently.