UPDATED 21:25 EDT / JULY 28 2019

SECURITY

Louisiana declares state of emergency in response to school ransomware attacks

Louisiana today took the rare step of declaring a state of emergency following multiple ransomware attacks on schools in the north of the state.

The ransomware attacks, first detected on July 23, encrypted data on school computer systems in the Parishes of Oachita (City of Monroe School District), Morehouse and Sabine. Phones, files and computer equipment became inaccessible following the infections.

The type of ransomware used in the attacks was not disclosed, only described by the state as “severe, intentional security breaches,” even though most ransomware attacks are not targeted.

Stranger still, a local school principal in Sabine Parish told local media that the district became aware of the ransomware from a surge of bandwidth usage at 4 a.m. on a Sunday. That’s behavior not typically seen with ransomware, more typical of a Trojan virus that may have been designed to steal data or install new malware.

With the declaration of an emergency, state resources have been made available including support from the Louisiana National Guard, Louisiana State Police, the Office of Technology Services and others. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is also said to be investigating the ransomware attacks.

Calling a state of emergency signals that Louisiana is taking remediation seriously, Phil Richards, chief information security officer of technology asset management security firm Ivanti, told SiliconANGLE.

“I expect other states may follow similar protocol should they be impacted in the same way,” Richards said. “In fact, there have been 22 known public-sector attacks to date this year, outpacing 2018, and that isn’t counting those attacks the go unreported for months or years after they’re discovered.”

As Richards noted, the attack are far from not the first. Previous municipal ransomware attacks include Atlanta in March 2018, Baltimore in May and two cities in Florida in June.

Louisiana is not the first state to declare a state of emergency following a ransomware attack, either. Colorado declared one after a SamSam attack in March 2018.

Image: Pixabay

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