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Cyber-attacks are on the rise in Louisiana. The FBI is helping stop them.

The FBI is helping to stop the rising tide of cyber attacks in the state.

LOUISIANA, USA — FBI Agents are not only seeing an increase in cyber-attacks across the country but also here at home in Louisiana.

Cyber-attacks not only cost money and cause headaches, but they are a major concern for national security, especially when it comes to our critical infrastructure, like the power grid. 

Companies are also more at risk lately through supply chain vendors.

So, federal agents want to help.

Several years ago, before urologist Dr. Neil Baum retired, he got a shocking message on his office computer. 

“There was a pop-up telling us that all our data is gone. It has disappeared, and if we want them back we have to pay a ransom,” Dr. Baum said in 2016.

And just several days ago, the IT department for the Plaquemines Parish government got a warning from the protective software it installed that something suspicious was going on.

“That's when we shut everything down. It was very tough. It just paralyzes the government,” Plaquemines Parish President Kirk Lepine said.

But in this case, Plaquemines Parish immediately reported it to state and federal authorities.

“The FBI was here first. The State Police and the National Guard, each had a task force,” Lepine said.

“We're the home to oil and gas. We have many small businesses. You have world-class research universities here in Louisiana, and those are all targets,” Douglas Williams, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI New Orleans Field Office, said.

FBI agents want to help public and private companies prevent and recover from cyber-attacks.

They want to form a partnership before a crisis and help you create a cyber incident plan that should be printed out, and the sooner you report the breach, the better.

“I have a team of cyber-trained agents, computer scientists, intelligence analysts. We have international reach to help a company here in Louisiana get back on track,” Williams said.

“Just because you've been attacked once too, doesn't mean they're not going to come and victimize you as well. Many times we see them get hit again,” Stephen Fessel, Supervisory Special Agent of the Cyber Squad in the FBI New Orleans Field Office said.  

They say the bad actors can be criminals hoping to extort money, or nation-state actors targeting intellectual property, usually from Russia, North Korea, Iran, and the most prominent, China.

“China has more hackers than all the other countries combined. China has stolen more information, more data from the United States, from across Louisiana than all other countries combined,” Williams said.

They offered this advice.

“Backing up your system regularly is a good thing, but having it where it’s not connected to your network, so that way, if you do get ransomware, or your system gets encrypted you can go back to that last backup,” Fessel said.

Sometimes you can't get your data or money back, but in the case of the Colonial Pipeline cyber infection in 2021, the FBI helped get nearly half of the money back from the hackers.

“Our state and federal partners were just fantastic, and they worked night and day to get it back up,” Lepine said.

Plaquemines Parish is back to normal with extra protection. It took only two weeks. No money was paid, and no data were stolen.

Investigations stay private. Cyber squad agents are not looking at your personnel or HR records. They are interested in how the keyboard criminals gained entry and the type of attack.

They don't recommend paying the ransom, but if you do, they will continue the investigation and full partnership.

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