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City Government Still Debilitated by Cyberattack

Mayor Cantrell at press conference
Betsy Shepherd

A month after a cyberattack forced the City of New Orleans to shut down its computer network, city officials still lack email and web access and many public services remain down. Mayor LaToya Cantrell offered details during a press conference on Wednesday.

The system was hacked in either November or December — officials didn’t share the exact date, but say the city went offline when ransomware was detected.

Mayor Cantrell says the city is now functioning as if in a pre-computer era.

“Going back to a manual format is something that we’ve had to revisit as a city and running government and making sure things move forward," says Cantrell.

A month after the attack, 70 percent of city employees still do not have email access. The New Orleans Police Department’s evidence database is not operating, indefinitely delaying some trials. And the city’s online payment system remains down, causing cash flow problems.

Forty million dollars in payments to employees and vendors are being processed on paper. The bank charges a $5 for every check the city writes.

Technological roadblocks are also preventing the city from issuing permits or providing tax records and other documents to the public.

The Mayor says it could take up to eight more months and $7 million to get the city’s computer system securely running again. Three thousand computers will need to be wiped, many have already been decommissioned. Four hundred servers are being evaluated for bugs.

Cybersecurity insurance the city purchased in 2018 will cover $3 million of expenses. Cantrell says, going forward, the city will step up its cybersecurity measures, move data to cloud storage, and maximize its insurance coverage.

"It's like building a whole new house," she explained.

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