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New Orleans Declares State of Emergency Following Cyber Attack

On Dec.13th, the City of New Orleans fell victim to a cyber-attack. The source was identified as a ransomware attack which caused all city employees to have to shut down their systems and disconnect from Wi-Fi, putting the city into a state of emergency.

The City’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) stated there was evidence this ransomware was delivered through a phishing email to users. The type of ransomware is not disclosed at this time.

As of this week, the New Orleans City officials are still recovering and investigating all 4,000 computers to determine if a data breach occurred from this attack. This attack is expected to take the city a week or longer to fully reverse. As of now, there has been no confirmed ransom request from attackers. Federal agencies including the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service are involved in the investigation into who launched the cyberattack.

These types of ransomware attacks are occurring more frequently in the US. In December 2019 alone, three other city government services were compromised in Pensacola, Florida; Galt, California; and St. Lucie, Florida causing computers and services to be shut down. Currently, no business is immune to the threat of receiving ransomware.

Ransomware is a highly profitable market for cybercriminals. Although highly profitable, ransomware is considered an emerging black market since it accounts for $1 Billion of today’s whopping $1.5 trillion in cyber-crime related damages. Ransomware has such a high value that it is continuing to increase in frequency by almost 750 percent within the last year. Cybercrime related damages are expected to hit $6 trillion by 2021 with the rapid rise in ransomware attributing to those numbers. Businesses must be proactive in protecting their data and assets.

The best way to prevent one from affecting the business is to be proactive by taking the proper security measures to ensure your data is safely protected. This can be accomplished by taking the following actions:

  • Conduct a Business Continuity Assessment. Similar to an accounting audit, have a reputable certified third party, such as Withum’s cybersecurity team, conduct an objective Business Continuity Cyber Assessment of your environment, backups, as well as your firm’s ability to recover in the event of an incident.
  • Segment your network. Limit the attacker’s ability to access key systems while restricting them from stealing data.
  • Install/ ransomware protection software to help identify potential attacks. Put software in place to provide early detection/alerting and remediation to limit exposure of data to attackers.
  • Train your staff to recognize the signs and indicators of cyber-attacks. Regular security awareness training enables employees to better identify and protect themselves from attacks. Knowing what to look for will enable employees to provide better reporting/alerting of potential threats.
  • Incident Response Plan. Ensure that a viable and tested incident response plan is in place. Consider independent certified third-party security experts, such as Withum Cyber, with extensive hands-on experience with handling cyber threats to conduct a review and validation of your incident response plan.

Modern cyber-attacks, such as ransomware attacks, which can paralyze an entire business for weeks, months, and have even put businesses out of business are preventable. In the event of an incident, contact Withum’s Cybersecurity team for a free initial emergency cyber response consultation.
Author: Jody Blanchard  |  jblanchard@withum.com

Withum’s Cybersecurity Services

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