(TNS) — New Orleans City Hall's computer systems have more or less recovered from the cyberattack that pummeled them in December. But residents won't be able to access many police reports or other public records for at least another week.
While thousands of city computers have been cleared for use, requests for police reports filed before the Dec. 13 attack won't be fulfilled for another few days or longer, depending on the date of the report, the city said.
The online public records system, where users can make requests online, is expected to be back up and running within two weeks.
Handwritten reports filed in the month since the attack are being made available to residents requesting them at New Orleans Police Department headquarters, though they may take some time to locate, a city spokesman said.
Residents need public records for many reasons, including to begin home renovations or to file insurance claims after a fender bender. But the system for providing those documents has been crippled ever since the city's computers were compromised when an employee apparently provided their credentials in response to a hacker's email, essentially granting that hacker an entryway to the city's servers and computers.
Officials detected ransomware on the network and unplugged computers to stop the malware from spreading further. But one in five computers had become so compromised that they had to be replaced.
Chief Information Officer Kimberly LaGrue, who has been leading the push to restore the city's computers and servers over the past few weeks, said the website has gone from "visibility to functionality," meaning people can once again pay property taxes and report blight or potholes online.
The city has spent $1.5 million to restore its systems since the attack, and it expects to spend $500,000 more on cybersecurity efforts this year. The city could also raise the value of its cybersecurity insurance policy.
As of Friday, more than 3,100 computers were cleared for city employees to use. Police districts were able to file electronic reports last week for the first time since the attack.
Police reports filed before the attack that date back to 2009 are now accessible to the public, and police will begin fulfilling requests for those records by the end of this week, spokesman Trey Caruso said.
Reports filed before 2009 could be available within two months. And handwritten reports filed after the attack are available at NOPD headquarters, but have to be searched for manually and could take time to find, Caruso said.
New Orleans resident Matthew Cabana went to the NOPD's South Broad Street headquarters Friday to get a copy of a handwritten report filed this month after a thief stole Cabana's motorcycle. He said he was told all records were unavailable. Without a copy of his report, he can't replace his bike, as his insurance company won't honor his claim.
Many who have experienced a vehicle break-in or theft in recent weeks have faced a similar problem.
"I am fortunate in that it was just a motorcycle, and I have another means of conveyance," Cabana said.
Users will be able to easily access the city's online records system, Next Request, within two weeks, Caruso said. For the past month, people have been told to submit their requests at City Hall in person and to expect delays.
New Orleans is one of dozens of municipalities across the U.S. whose systems have been affected by cybercriminals in the past year. The targets also included the state of Louisiana. The FBI is still investigating the source of the local attack.
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