Louisiana governor declares state emergency after local ransomware outbreak

Three school districts have been hit by ransomware in North Louisiana this week.

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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has activated a state-wide state of emergency in response to a wave of ransomware infections that have hit multple school districts.

The ransomware infections took place this week and have impacted the school districts of three North Louisiana parishes -- Sabine, Morehouse, and Ouachita.

IT networks are down at all three school districts, and files have been encrypted and are inaccessible, local media outlets are reporting.

This is the second time that a state governor has activated a state emergency due to ransomware or any form of cyber-attack. The first time was in Colorado in February 2018, when the Colorado Department of Transportation was forced to shut down operations because of an infection with the SamSam ransomware. However, that state emergency activated additional state resources to help with traffic, road management, and transportation, and not with deploying cyber-security experts to help victims, like in Louisiana's case.

By signing the Emergency Declaration, the Louisiana governor is making available state resources to impacted schools.

This includes assistance from cybersecurity experts from the Louisiana National Guard, Louisiana State Police, the Office of Technology Services, the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), and others.

State officials hope that additional IT expertise will speed up the recovery process so schools can resume their activity and preparations for the upcoming school year.

Gov. Edwards was able to roll out a coordinated response for the ransomware infections at schools in the North Louisiana because he previously established a Cybersecurity Commission to assemble and coordinate response teams in the event of a cyber-attack.

He created this commission in December 2017, in the year when three ransomware outbreaks -- namely WannaCry, NotPetya, and Bad Rabbit -- had caused havoc across the globe, including in Louisiana.

"This is exactly why we established the Cyber Security Commission, focused on preparing for, responding to and preventing cybersecurity attacks, and we are well-positioned to assist local governments as they battle this current threat," Gov. Edwards said.

The state of emergency will remain in place until August 21, or until the recovery process at impacted school districts wraps up.

Gulf Coast neighbor Florida could have used a state of emergency declaration last month, as well, after three municipalities were hit by ransomware -- Riviera Beach (paid $600,000); Lake City (paid $500,000); and Key Biscayne (recovered from backups).

In recent months, US cities have been a prime target for ransomware gangs. Earlier today, some residents of Johannesburg, South Africa's biggest city and financial capital, have been left without electricity after a ransomware infection.

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