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New Orleans cyberattack: What's working and what's not

There is no word on when computer services will be restored.

NEW ORLEANS — There's no estimate for when computer service will be restored to New Orleans government offices after a cyberattack forced workers to shut down their computers and disconnect from the internet.

City officials said Saturday that they were working to restore the city's systems, but did not give a timeline for when government computers would come back online. 

The attack was first detected around 5 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, according to New Orleans IT Director Kimberly LaGrue. When employees arrived for work around 8 a.m. the suspicious activity increased and by 11 a.m. employees were notified that a cyberattack was underway.

"The City of New Orleans is under a cyberattack. Please power off your computers and unplug them immediately. Await further instructions," an internal text message from the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said that investigators “detect ransomware,” but no ransom requests have been made and the exact nature of the attack is still unknown.

LaGrue added that phishing attempts were made to obtain city employees login credentials and security clearances, but they were unsuccessful. 

Services impacted include:

  • All City Hall offices
  • NOPD computers -- operating through radio only
  • EMS computers -- operating through radio only
  • Clerk of Criminal Court -- operating with internal database and paper records
  • City Municipal and Traffic Courts -- Both courts are closed Monday because their computer systems are offline. 

Services not impacted:

  • 911 -- operates on a separate server
  • Civil Court -- operates on a separate server
  • Parking enforcement -- tickets are still being issued

“We can operate without internet, without city network,” Director of Homeland Security Colin Arnold said. “We will go back to marker board, we will go back to paper. Police, fire, EMS, we can operate and we have trained to do that.”

The City’s real-time crime camera system is still up and running. 

“They’re independent. All that information will backfill into the system. We will not lose any activity there,” Arnold said. “Critically, if a crime is committed near a camera a technician can get that data from the camera.”

The city’s payroll system was not affected by the attack at all, according to officials.

Some additional services are still running for residents who need them.

311 has the capability to take phone calls for people who need to reach the Department of Safety and Permits.

But there are specific numbers for agencies within the Department of Safety and Permits, while services are offline:

504-658-7130 Building Inspections

504-658-7145 Electrical

504-658-7153 Mechanical

504-658-7170 School Buses and Taxis

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The city's website, NOLA.gov, remained unavailable Saturday. Employees at city hall were unable to use computers to complete work. A city spokesperson said residents who had planned to go to City Hall for business Friday should come back next week.

A ransomware attack hit several Louisiana state government computers last month. The state quickly shut down network traffic to prevent the spread, and have brought most state offices back online since. The ransomware attack damaged 10% of Louisiana’s computer servers for state government. But officials say no data was lost and no ransom was paid.

Friday evening, Gov. John Bel Edwards responded to Cantrell's request for an emergency declaration. Edwards said he would extend the currently active state of emergency, which was put in place to assist with recovery after the statewide attack, because it allows the state government to assist the city of New Orleans with their new incident. 

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