NEW ORLEANS — Cyberattackers targeted the state of Louisiana.
Louisiana state servers were taken down after an attempted ransomware attack, Governor John Bel Edwards tweeted Monday.
During a ransomware cyberattack, attackers try to gain access to computer files and encrypt them, preventing people or organizations that own said files or data from reaching it.
Think of someone stealing a file cabinet and holding it hostage until a ransom is paid. In this case, the state acted quickly, and there was no anticipated data loss.
It's as easy as opening an email that compromised the computer system, Robert Allen said.
Allen is a Tulane professor with a history in cyber security and law enforcement. Cyber attackers tried to get the state to pay up after encrypting data on state servers.
"An outside party will actually get into the state of Louisiana systems and hold the state hostage, the computer system hostage," Allen said.
Ransomware attacks like this happen when someone finds vulnerabilities in a computer system, Allen said.
"When you find that vulnerability, you exploit it," Allen said.
They can encrypt data as easily as sending an email that if you open will take away your access until you pay a ransom.
"Looking to get paid," Allen explained is the goal for the attackers.
The attack can be coming from anywhere.
"You see a lot of stuff coming in from foriegn country, a lot from Russia coming in," he said.
This attack against the state affected some state servers, so the state took them down.
"The state pulled the plug," Allen said.
This means on Monday, state employees couldn't use their email, and Office of Motor Vehicle locations couldn't do business. The governor tweeted this ransomware attack was similar to the ransomware attack that targeted local school districts this summer.
"There are sometimes where the data cannot be retrieved," Allen said.
Allen said the state did the right thing by not paying the ransom because that precedent should be avoided.
"Common rule of thumb; never ever pay, ever," Allen said.
The governor tweeted he doesn't anticipate any data loss.
"So it may be lost on one computer or system, but it wouldn't be lost on another," Allen said is often the case.
Louisiana State Police and several federal agencies are investigating, but Allen said it's challenging to find out who is behind the attack.
"More times than not it's overseas, so it's hard to do anything about it," Allen said.
Online services started coming back online Monday afternoon, but full restoration may take several days.