The city of New Orleans continues to operate under a state of emergency following a devastating ransomware attack. The hack was discovered in the early morning of December 13 when city officials noted suspicious activity in their computer systems. By mid-morning, the increase in activity allowed them to identify ransomware as the cause. As a result, all work by city employees came to a halt as officials were forced to disconnect computers and servers. Municipal emergency services like police and fire were not affected, but most other work is now being completed manually.
Reports suggest that over 4,000 city computers have been infected and that New Orleans has already incurred costs in excess of $1 million. The ransomware involved in the attack is believed to have come from Ryuk, a variant with which the Schneider Downs cybersecurity team is quite familiar, as detailed in a related article. The link to Ryuk is related to suspicious executables that were uploaded from an IP address within the United States to VirusTotal, a scanning service, on December 14. One of those uploads contained references to Ryuk and New Orleans, specifying city domain names, domain controllers, users names and file shares. While not confirmed, these connections do appear to identify Ryuk as the culprit.
This latest ransomware infection serves as a reminder that not even governments are immune from cyberattacks. In fact, state and local administrations have been hit with a near-constant stream of ransomware attacks over the past year. Underfunded and under-resourced governments are particularly vulnerable. New Orleans has been able to operate with some level of normalcy as a result of extensive training to prepare for natural disasters. Governments, organizations and individuals without this training may not be able to recover as quickly.
As a quick word of advice, Schneider Downs reminds you to be suspicious of clicking links within emails (and continue training employees to be suspicious), monitor traffic on your network, and have an incident response team in mind to call if ransomware does hit. For more information on our extensive experience helping clients deal with ransomware attacks, check out our white paper, 10 Things Companies Wish They Did Before a Breach.
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