Monday 16 December 2019 3:32 pm

New Orleans declares emergency as cyber attack shuts down government

New Orleans has declared a state of emergency after a huge cyber attack shut down the local government’s computers and servers.

The city’s emergency response service, dubbed Nola Ready, first reported phishing attempts and suspicious activity at 5am on Friday.

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Chief information officer Kim LaGrue later declared a cybersecurity incident, prompting the city’s IT department to start powering down computers and servers.

Officials said that despite the deluge of attacks, there was no indication of “significant” data loss.

New Orleans City Hall was open for business as usual today, though employees continue to work offline until the city’s web services can be resumed.

Authorities have opened an investigation into the attack alongside state police, the FBI and the Secret Service.

Sam Curry, chief security officer at Cybereason, said a lack of cybersecurity preparation had left cities facing a “perfect storm”.

“Most cities and states are ancient organisations by comparison to most corporations, with ages measured in decades or centuries,” he said.

“The governance changes frequently, and IT has grown irregularly and often without formal rationale, especially in the smallest towns.

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“As a result, ransomware has hit many with no contingencies for a cyber crisis, no departments with bench strength and no know-how within the organisational structure.”

The attack followed several similar incidents in Louisiana in recent months. In July the governor declared a state of emergency after school systems were hit by a malware attack.

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