UPDATED: 5:16 p.m. 11/20/2019
A cyberattack caused state government websites and email systems to shut down Monday — and some remain inoperative, state officials say.
Due to ongoing network restoration efforts by the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles and the Office of Technology Services, all OMV offices will remain closed Thursday morning, Louisiana State Police said in a social media post late Wednesday afternoon.
The service interruption was due to efforts by the state Office of Technology Services “aggressive response” to prevent additional infection of state services and not due to the attack itself, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office says. Though some services are back up and running, full restoration might take several days.
Louisiana State Police and federal agencies are investigating. The OTS says the “ransomware” attack is similar to attacks that targeted school districts and other government entities this summer. There is no anticipated data loss and the state did not pay a ransom, the governor’s office says.
“Ransomware” is software designed to deny legitimate users’ access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid. A system often is infected when a user unwittingly opens a “phishing” email or visits an infected website. Once infested, the thieves hold the user’s data hostage until a ransom is paid, usually in digital currency like bitcoin.
The LSU-affiliated Stephenson National Center for Security Research, which was part of the response effort to this summer’s ransomware attacks, said the school systems had suffered “the most pervasive ransomware attacks in the state’s history,” in which “digital thieves successfully injected malware” into their networks.
“Ransomware is not new,” said Jeff Moulton, the center’s director, in July. “It’s growing in use at the state and local levels because the attackers know government agencies, especially at the lower levels, are likely to pay.”
Government agencies in Texas, Florida, Georgia and elsewhere have also been targeted.