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Cyberattacks force Louisiana to declare state of emergency

Published Jul 26th, 2019 8:08PM EDT
Image: Cultura/REX/Shutterstock

Ransomware and cyberattacks continue to multiply and hit local governments in a scary, escalating pattern such that, now for the second time since 2018, a governor has formally declared a state of emergency because of it.

Back in February 2018, it was Colorado’s governor after the Colorado Department of Transportation had to shut down operations because of a SamSam ransomware attack. This time, Louisiana’s Gov. Jon Bel Edwards has made the declaration after multiple school districts in the state have been hit by a wave of cyberattacks.

Three North Louisiana parishes (Sabine, Morehouse, and Ouachita) have reportedly been hit, with the attacks knocking out IT networks and encrypting files, rendering them inaccessible. Because a state of emergency has been declared there, federal law enforcement is helping out, as is the Louisiana National Guard which reports say has dispatched a cyber team to help restore the local systems and put firewalls in place.

“The Sabine Parish School System was hit with an electronic virus early Sunday morning,” the school district said in a statement posted to its website.

“This virus has disabled some of our technology systems and our central office phone system. The district staff reported this electronic viral attack to local law enforcement, state officials and the FBI. All available resources are being utilized to get the district systems back online. An investigation involving local, state and federal law enforcement is ongoing at this time.”

Beyond Louisiana, there’s been a noticeable uptick in these kinds of attacks plaguing cities and states over the past year, with municipalities hit from George to Florida and elsewhere throughout the US. One common practice has been for the hackers to gain access to and then lock up a city or state’s networks and files, demanding payment to reverse the damage.

As we reported in recent weeks, Florida has proven an especially lucrative target for these cybercriminals who hit a trio of cities there within days of each other. Two of those cities are known to have paid collectively more than $1 million to the hackers that hit them, while officials in the most recent (Lake City) approved a ransom payment of 42 Bitcoin, equal to about $460,000. Back in Louisiana, meanwhile, the state of emergency will reportedly remain in place for several more weeks — through August 21, or until the school districts have fully recovered their data and regained control of their networks.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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