It all started on Friday, December 13, around 5 a.m. of the “Suspicious activity” start on the New Orleans administration’s computer network. They are spotted around 11 a.m. by the municipality. In the process, “As a precaution, all employees were asked to immediately shut down their computers, disconnect them and disconnect from the Wi-Fi”, did she specify. All of the city's servers were also shut down. And a state of emergency was finally declared in this city in the south of the United States, the largest in Louisiana.
Police must perform 'by hand' several tasks
Since then, several municipal services have been disrupted. The city’s websites are no longer functioning, preventing residents from performing certain operations. And different departments had to go back to paper and pencil, like the police, who “Continues its usual activities”, specifies the mayor, LaToya Cantrell, in a press release, but must perform ” by hand “ several tasks.
Emergency communications are not affected, the city stresses. As for the emergencies themselves, they still work, but the management of “Not urgent problems could be postponed”, warns the mayor, whose press release lists, one by one, the affected departments.
What was the attack? Kim LaGrue, the city's IT chief, said in a press conference that he observed a campaign of phishing (usually booby-trapped emails designed to steal usernames and passwords) and evoked ransomware (ransomware in English). This type of program involves encrypting all of the files on a machine, making them inaccessible. The pirates then demanded a ransom in exchange for unlocking the device. If this type of software was detected in New Orleans, the authorities have not said whether a ransom note has actually been released by the malware. The city’s mayor said that she had received no ransom demand.
Several localities have been targeted in recent months by ransomware, such as the city of Pensacola, Florida, Jackson County, Georgia and even the State of Louisiana, in November. France is not spared: the city of Cognac paid the price just a few weeks ago, as did the Rouen University Hospital.