WASHINGTON — New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell had a cautionary message for a gathering of mayors Thursday. “It’s not a matter of if, but when” they will also face a potentially crippling cyberattack in their cities, she said.
A month after New Orleans declared a state of emergency due to a cyberattack that shut down City Hall computers for weeks and seriously disrupted city business, Cantrell addressed the issue during a gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“As mayors we know what we’re up against,” she said, revealing little about the details of what happened in New Orleans. “At the end of the day I just want to encourage you all to lean forward in this.”
She said it could be another six to eight months before the city’s systems are fully restored.
The cyberattack afflicting New Orleans City Hall’s computer networks will take months longer to completely fix than officials have previously …
New Orleans has a $3 million cybersecurity insurance policy that the city initiated in 2018, though officials have not detailed what that policy covers or even who provides it. Last week, Cantrell said the city has already spent $7.2 million responding to the attack.
She said some officials initially balked when she raised cybersecurity as a risk and questioned whether it should be considered a part of the city’s critical infrastructure needs.
“I said, ‘Like hell it isn’t,’” she told the friendly crowd of mayors.
The city is cooperating with the FBI to investigate the attack, but officials haven’t revealed who might have been behind it. Cantrell didn’t address the source during her address.
Cantrell’s trip to Washington comes as the city is still working to recover from the Dec. 13 attack. Meanwhile, another of the city’s slow-simmering crises boiled over. On Tuesday afternoon, a tarp that was hanging on the side of the collapsed Hard Rock Hotel was blown from its moorings, exposing the remains of one of the workers killed when the building crumpled in October. A new tarp was later installed.
The Hard Rock collapse, the recent explosion of a turbine at the Sewerage & Water Board’s plant and the after-effects of the cyberattack have taken up much of the city’s attention in recent weeks.
The cyberattack began after an employee apparently responded to an email seeking credentials to access the city’s system. Those credentials were then used to try to inject the malicious ransomware into the city’s networks. No requests for ransom were received, though software did try to infiltrate the city’s servers.
“We didn’t get hit with a ransom” demand, Cantrell said, adding that the city had also been spared from data loss because it had begun transferring information to cloud servers. “We were able to not lose any data.”