Ransomware hits Louisiana state government systems

Ransomware contained and some systems have already been recovered.
Written by Catalin Cimpanu, Contributor

A ransomware infection today took down IT systems and websites managed by the Louisiana state government, Governor John Bel Edwards revealed in a series of tweets.

"Today, we activated the state's cybersecurity team in response to an attempted ransomware attack that is affecting some state servers. The Office of Technology Services identified a cybersecurity threat that affected some, but not all state servers," Governor Edwards said.

"OTS immediately initiated its security protocols and, out of an abundance of caution, took state servers down, which impacted many state agencies' e-mail, websites and other online applications," he said.

"The service interruption was due to OTS' aggressive response to prevent additional infection of state servers and not due to the attempted ransomware attack," the governor added.

Impacted services included public state government websites, but also the government's servers that manage email communications and internal applications.

Websites for the Office of the Governor, Louisiana State Legislature, Office of Motor Vehicles, Department of Corrections, the Louisiana Division of Administration, the Department of Transportation & Development, and more were affected, according to local news outlet WAFB9.

WWLTV is reporting that local government employees are using Gmail accounts to communicate until the state's email server comes back online.

It is unclear the extent of the damage the ransomware did to the Louisiana state government's internal network.

Based on public statements, the situation seems to be under control. At the time of writing, all the websites reported as being down by WAFB9 are up and running, although officials said some internal applications might still be down for the coming days.

Louisiana more prepared than most

The state's quick response to the attack is no surprise. The state of Louisiana is one of the few US states that's prepared and has a plan in place for dealing with cyber-attacks.

In December 2017, Governor Edwards established a Cybersecurity Commission to create procedures and action plans for dealing with cyber-attacks.

The commission's first big real-world test was over the summer when ransomware hit three school districts, in Sabine, Morehouse, and Ouachita.

At the time, Governor Edwards declared a state of emergency to mobilize state resources and deal with the attack and recovery efforts. He did not declare a similar state of emergency today, as the OTS was pretty quick to detect and stop the attack today.

Governor Edwards was re-elected over the weekend.

Ransomware attacks on US municipalities and local governments have been rampant this year. A Recorded Future report puts the number of ransomware incidents impacting local US governments at 81 (as of October 2019). Twenty-two of these were recorded in one single incident alone, in August, when ransomware hit 22 Texas local governments via a shared service provider.

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