Apparent ‘ransom’ attack cripples state government; some services back online

Published: Nov. 18, 2019 at 12:20 PM CST
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An apparent “ransom” attack crippled much of the Louisiana state government Monday.

An administrator at the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) says it appears the state was hit by a “ransomware attack.” The Office of Technology Services (OTS) later confirmed this.

The attack, which was first reported around 11 a.m. Monday, forced a shutdown of state agency websites, as well as internet and email access. Governor John Bel Edwards says OTS immediately initiated security protocols and out of an abundance of caution, took down state servers, which is what impacted numerous state agencies’ email, website, online applications, etc.

Websites for the Office of the Governor, Louisiana State Legislature, Office of Motor Vehicles, Department of Corrections, and more were affected. The large-scale outage prevented OMW workers from performing most functions and customers were encouraged to return at a later time.

A hacker can use ransomware to block access to a computer system, usually by encrypting it, until the “victim” pays a monetary ransom.

“Typically, ransomware includes a ransom,” an OMV official said.

Gov. Edwards tweeted Monday evening that the state did not pay a ransom.

Once the ransom software is installed “it would require a ransom to be paid before the attackers remove the virus,” the official said.

The issue also prevented business from being done at any of the state’s 79 OMV locations. A worker at The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) said employees there were instructed to disconnect their computers from the network. Some trucking companies in the state are having to keep trucks off the road as they are unable to go onto the DOTD website to apply for and print out things like “overweight” permits.

Division of Administration spokesman, Jacques Berry, reached by phone, says there’s a “system issue,” but did not elaborate. He later added that no personal data has been put at risk.

Some online services began to come back online around 5 p.m. on Monday evening.

Gov. Edwards tweeted about the incident:

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