(TNS) — Technology systems at a wide range of state offices went down Monday morning, causing internet and website problems statewide, apparently as the result of an attempted ransomware attack.
“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,” Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted late Monday. “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 ... There is no anticipated data loss and the state did not pay a ransom.”
The Louisiana State Police and several federal agencies are investigating this attempted ransomware attack, Edwards said.
The Louisiana Cybersecurity Commission defines ransomware as a way to hold systems and data hostage until paid. "If the demands are not met, the system or encrypted data remains unavailable, or data may be deleted," according to the commission's definition.
Edwards said the service interruption was due to the Office of Technology Services, OTS, shutting down computer systems to avoid infecting state Internet servers. He said the online services should start back online this afternoon, but it'll take a "several days" to get everything working again.
Keith Neal, director of project management for Office of Motor Vehicles, said he called the state's IT department when the OMV computers started acting screwy Monday morning. After about 15 or 20 minutes, the system working altogether. He said the attackers put a lock on the data and a lock on access to the computers early this morning. The state's computers have been down all day.
Berry said the problems agencies were experiencing varied depending on how much they rely on the Office of Technology Services. Some offices had no access to email, internet or applications. The Division of Administration shut down “all outgoing network traffic” to investigate the cause without making the problem worse, Berry said.
Louisiana Secretary of State spokesman Tyler Brey said that office’s website and app were down. Louisiana Department of Health spokesman Bob Johannessen said that agency does not have internet or email access. The Department of Revenue's computers are locked as are those at the Louisiana Public Service Commission.
But, it's the agencies that deal directly with the public that were effected most.
Neal said computers at 79 motor vehicle offices statewide went offline.
"We are virtually shut down," he said. OMV staff is trying to process documents but can't issue drivers' licences.
People seeking food stamps can't apply. But most of the 375,000 recipients of SNAP benefits can still use their card to purchase food, said Catherine Heitman, spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services. The department loads the EBT cards, electronically, during the first two weeks of the month, so for the most part, food stamps are available. Additionally, reports of child abuse have to be phoned in, rather than submitted on line, she said.
This attempted ransomware attack is similar to the ransomware targeted at local school districts and government entities across the country this summer, Edwards said.
School systems in Sabine, Morehouse, and Ouachita parishes were attacked by malware in July. In response, Edwards activated the state's first cybersecurity emergency, which allowed access to more resources. The declaration enables local governments to utilize cybersecurity experts from the Louisiana National Guard, Louisiana State Police, the Office of Technology Services and others to resolve cyberattacks.
CNN reported 22 governmental entities around the nation were attacked over the summer.
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