Louisiana activates cybersecurity team in response to attack on state agencies

Louisiana activates cybersecurity team in response to attack on state agencies
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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Monday activated the state’s cybersecurity team in response to an attack on multiple state agencies.

Edwards tweeted that upon discovering the attempted ransomware attack, Louisiana’s Office of Technology Services (OTS) took state agency servers offline, which impacted emails, websites, and other online applications.

“The service interruption was due to OTS’ aggressive response to prevent additional infection of state servers and not due to the attempted ransomware attack,” Edwards wrote. “Online services started to come back online this afternoon, though full restoration may take several days.”

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The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services was among the agencies impacted by the attack, tweeting that their Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline was down for several hours. 

Edwards noted that the Louisiana State Police and “several federal agencies” were investigating the attempted attack. 

Ransomware attacks involve a malicious group or actor hacking into a system, encrypting it and demanding money, usually in the form of bitcoin, to give the user access again.

This is the second major ransomware attack Louisiana has been through this year, following one in July that impacted three school districts. Edwards declared a state-wide emergency in response to these attacks, which allowed for state resources and cybersecurity assistance to be given to the districts.  

Edwards, who was re-elected to a second term as governor on Saturday, tweeted on Monday night that OTS had “confirmed that this attempted ransomware attack is similar to the ransomware targeted at local school districts and government entities across the country this summer. There is no anticipated data loss and the state did not pay a ransom.”

Edwards has focused on cybersecurity issues as governor, and in 2017 established Louisiana’s Cybersecurity Commission, which consists of a partnership between cyber professionals and subject matter experts to help advance cyber expertise and ability to respond to attacks. 

Ransomware attacks have been a growing threat to state and local groups around the country this year. In Texas, more than 20 city governments were attacked in August, while the school district in Flagstaff, Ariz., was forced to cancel classes for two days in September to address a ransomware attack.