Breaking News
More () »

Governor declares state of emergency after ransomware attack on Louisiana

This week's ransomware attack led to multiple state servers being shutdown and closed agencies like the OMV for multiple days.

NEW ORLEANS — Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a State of Emergency Friday following the ransomware attack on Louisiana.

The declaration allows the several agencies to take actions, including waiving fees and fines, in relation to services that have been temporarily cut off by the attack.

Louisiana's technology office expects to have all state agencies resuming normal operations by Monday.

Ten percent of the state's 5,000 computer network's servers that power operations across state government and 1,600 PCs were damaged by this week's ransomware attack.

Neal Underwood, the state's Deputy Chief Information Officer, testified about the recovery before a legislative budget committee Friday morning.

"Our target is to have pretty much, even if slightly impaired operations, full operations across the impacted agencies by close of business on Monday," Underwood said.

Underwood reassured committee members no data was compromised in the cyberattack and no ransom was paid.

"What they do is basically encrypt it and lock it up to where not only can they not see it, now we can't see it," Underwood said. "This was much more of an operational impact."

RELATED: Louisiana OMV won't reopen until Monday after cyberattack

The attack happened early Monday morning. The state quickly took down computer network systems after they detected an outside intrusion.

"They had access to our system for a matter of hours before we caught them," Underwood said. "It's not catastrophic. It did cause an interruption in services."

Since the attack, the state's IT team has been working around the clock to bring systems back online.

"There was significant impact to where we have to go and completely restore individual PCs, rebuild them from scratch and a large number of our servers operationally were impacted as well," Underwood said.

The state Office of Motor Vehicles was one of the state agencies hardest hit by the attack. OMV Commissioner Karen St. Germain explained why it's taking so long to reopen her 79 field offices across the state.

"We connect to so many other agencies," St. Germain said. "There are so many fingers that have to connect. It's taken us longer to process [the attack]."

RELATED: It's 'difficult to impossible' to find the people behind cyber attack, expert says

Senate President John Alario, (R-Westwego), asked if the state is now taking extra precautions to keep this sort of attack from happening in the future.

"Every time you have any kind of event there are always lessons learned and things that you can do to improve the posture," Underwood said. "In many cases, we are making those changes on the fly to improve our security posture as we bring these systems back online."

State Senator Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell) told Underwood and his team they are doing a great job responding to the attack.

"You know, there have been a lot of of cases where personal information was lost or released to other folks," Hewitt said. "That didn't happen in this case. That's great news for the people in Louisiana."

An investigation into the source of the attack is ongoing. State employees sidelined by the downed servers this week did not have their pay affected, officials said. 

RELATED: How cyberattackers tried to ransomware Louisiana computer servers

"This was a sophisticated and coordinated attack," Underwood said. "This was not some malcontent teenager in their parents' basement somewhere. I would venture to guess that this happened outside the boundaries of the United States."

Underwood told the committee the financial impact to mitigate something like this is relatively small.

"We don't have to go buy new equipment, we just fix the equipment we have," Underwood said. "We don't have to go invest in new software. We just have to take the effort to get everything up and operational."

The Louisiana National Guard is assisting the state IT team in restoring computer operations. 

► Get breaking news from your neighborhood delivered directly to you by downloading the new FREE WWL-TV News app now in the IOS App Store or Google Play.

Before You Leave, Check This Out