Cyber security investments are a priority for the city and state

Cyber security investments are a priority for the city and state

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Mayor Latoya Cantrell says the city is not done spending money related to last month’s cyber-ransomware attack and on the state level Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to harden state cyber-defenses even more after computer servers were hit by cyber-criminals. Around the country dozens of municipalities have also been targeted for attacks.

Cantrell says her administration was already focused on city hall’s cyber-systems before the December attack.

"We're no strangers with that now being in it over a month having been attacked but again understanding that cybersecurity having been a priority for my administration starting in 2018, not only investing insurance but investing in our infrastructure and heavily into maintaining our assets in infrastructure, so I think that we're on the right track and absolutely aligned with that of our governor,” said Cantrell during a one-on-one interview with FOX 8.

Weeks before the attack on New Orleans government, ransomware struck at the state level. It is a problem so serious that cybersecurity made it into Gov. Edwards inaugural address this week.

"In Louisiana, I want our new normal to be the highest-level security defense of any state in the nation,” said Edwards.

The mayor said the city has already spent millions recovering from the attack. She was asked how much more the city may have to spend.

“Well, it’s going to cost, it will. Right now, we know that we’re at about $7.2 [million] and that’s growing, building a new network and a new house as we call it," said Cantrell.

She added that months before the attack her administration began moving systems to the cloud.

"The cloud, what I'm learning…is very expensive and it will continue to grow, meaning the dollars that the city of New Orleans will have to put forth,” Cantrell stated.

Loyola University cybersecurity expert Andrew Wolfe said criminals often see municipal governments as vulnerable and sometimes desperate to recover stolen data.

"The problem with these municipalities is that they're easy targets for hackers and they can make a lot of money,” said Wolfe.

He said ransomware used by hackers is pervasive and invasive.

"The primary tool they use is a weapon called ransomware and what ransomware does is it goes into a computer and it uses an encryption technology to obfuscate, to turn all the discs into unintelligible gibberish and so where you had a disc filled with valuable information you now have gibberish, but you can get it back if you pay,” Wolfe stated.

Neither state government in Louisiana, nor New Orleans paid ransoms.

Wolfe says there are steps governments can take to make life harder for cyber-intruders.

"And one of the first things that has to happen is people being very vigilant about what sort of email they will view and click on,” said Wolfe. “The next thing is to make sure that they've got, they have backup systems that are constantly capturing the current state of your information, both on centralized systems and on users' personal computers as well."

And Wolfe says there is still a lot of ground to cover, in terms of defending against cyberattacks.

"We’re kind of behind the curve on security for our computer systems. We’ve got all this ability, but we haven’t necessarily thought about how to safeguard it,” he said.

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