New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell declared a state of emergency on Friday and ordered the city’s computers to be shut down after the municipality was struck by a cyberattack.
This is the latest cyber security event to take place in a string of city and state governments who have been hit by hackers, according to the Tech Crunch website.
The initial suspicious activity was first noticed at around 5 am Friday, and by 8 am that had increased with evidence of phishing attempts and ransomware, New Orleans IT Director Kim LaGrue told reporters at a news conference. Upon confirmation that an attack was in progress, servers and computers were immediately shut down.
The @CityOfNOLA Emergency Operations Center is activated and is working with cybersecurity resources from the @LAStatePolice, @FBINewOrleans, @LANationalGuard & @SecretService. We are @NOLAready @MayorCantrell @CityOfNOLA pic.twitter.com/UqgWWpOz6g
— The City Of New Orleans (@CityOfNOLA) December 14, 2019
Federal, state and local officials are now investigating.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long warned about the rising threat of cyberattacks aimed at municipal, state and national infrastructure, and cyber risks that can even down fighter jets.
Speaking at a cyber security conference in Tel Aviv last year, Netanyahu called on nations to collaborate in battling cyber security threats which he said could even bring down airlines. To underline his point, he simulated a hacking attack on the conference by a nearby country during his address that told attendees that their bank accounts, private conversations and information were being shared with the invader. Netanyahu later said the scenario was “not far-fetched” and that state actors can do that and much worse.
New Orleans, which was struck by a mammoth disaster – a hurricane and flooding – just a few years ago, has become amazingly adept at handling emergencies. Homeland Security director Collin Arnold noted, “If there is a positive about being a city that has been touched by disasters and essentially been brought down to zero in the past, is that our plans and activity from a public safety perspective reflect the fact that we can operate with internet without city networking.”
Arnold added that the city has gone back to using pen and paper for now. Police, fire and EMS are working outside of the city’s internet network, and emergency communications are not affected by the cyber security incident, city officials said. Other municipal services are being addressed manually. CCTV security cameras are recording independently as well.