The city of New Orleans is dealing with a cyber-attack. The nature of the cyber-attack has not yet been determined at the time of writing, but the incident bears the classic signs of a ransomware infection.
The attack was discovered earlier today, at around 11:00 am, local time, a city spokesperson told ZDNet via phone call.
“Out of an abundance of caution, all employees were immediately alerted to power down computers, unplug devices & disconnect from the city’s WiFi,” said Beau Tidwell, a spokesman for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
The nola.gov website is also offline, being shut down with the rest of the city’s servers.
According to reports from local media outlets [1, 2], to make sure employees powered down computers as soon as possible, officials used the city hall’s public loudspeakers systems to alert employees of the cyber-attack.
Besides city hall, the incident also affected the New Orleans Police Department, which shut down its IT network in entirety as well.
Police officers are still in the field, unaffected, using radios and other backup communications services, although they don’t have access to historical data stored on the department’s servers.
On social media, New Orleans officials said that 911 emergency services were not affected.
Officials said the Lousiana State Police, FBI New Orleans, the Louisiana National Guard, and the Secret Service are helping the city investigate and recover from the attack.
This incident marks the third major cyber-attack reported in the state of Louisiana.
In August, three school districts were hit by ransomware, prompting the Louisiana governor to declare a state emergency, the first one in the state’s history caused by a cyber-attack, rather than a natural disaster.
A second incident took place last month when a second ransomware attack encrypted data on the Louisiana state government’s IT network. Weeks after the attack, some state agencies are still having difficulties with accessing state data, although these are expected t be resolved by the end of the year.
If a ransomware attack is confirmed later today, New Orleans will become the third major US city to deal with a ransomware attack in recent years after similar attacks have hit Atlanta (SamSam ransomware in 2018) and Baltimore (RobbinHood ransomware in 2019).
This is a developing story. City officials plan to hold a press conference later today. This report will be updated once we learn more. The city is expected to announce that it suffered a ransomware attack.