LA governor declares statewide cybersecurity emergency

Ongoing malware attack impacting three North Louisiana school districts
(Associated Press)
Published: Jul. 24, 2019 at 10:35 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (KSLA) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a statewide cybersecurity emergency.

There’s an ongoing malware attack impacting three public school districts in North Louisiana — Sabine, Morehouse and Ouachita, the governor’s office reports.

In response, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has activated its crisis action team and the Emergency Services Function-17.

State officials were notified Wednesday and have been providing technical support ever since, said Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office.

"There have been some discussions with the school systems about what to look for and how to protect themselves. In addition, the Fusion Center at Louisiana State Police has provided some guidance to law enforcement and others about the threat. "

Louisiana State Police, the Louisiana National Guard, the state Office of Technology Services and other agencies are coordinating the response and determining future actions.

Sabine School District says the telephones at its Central Office also are being impacted. Staffers can call out but cannot receive calls. Parents are being advised to contact their children’s schools if they need assistance.

The School District released the following statement Wednesday evening:

"The Sabine Parish School System was hit with an electronic virus early Sunday morning. This virus has disabled some of our technology systems and our central office phone system. The district staff reported this electronic viral attack to local law enforcement, state officials and the FBI. All available resources are being utilized to get the district systems back online. An investigation involving local, state and federal law enforcement is ongoing at this time. The school phone systems were not affected by this attack. The central office phone system is being repaired and service will be restored as soon as possible. According to the Louisiana Department of Education, several other school districts were attacked by the same virus this week.”

Eddie Jones, principal of Florien High School in Sabine Parish, said his technology supervisor got an alert on his phone about 4 a.m. Sunday about unusually high bandwidth usage, particularly considering the time of day and the summer break.

They were told a ransomeware virus was discovered installed on their system, he said.

Jones doesn’t think any sensitive information was lost. What is lost, he said, is anything and everything housed solely on the School District’s servers.

For Jones, he said that means 17 years of documents he created — speeches, test schedules, master schedules, etc.

This is the first time Louisiana has activated its emergency support function relating to cybersecurity.

So far, the state is coordinating with the FBI, state agencies and higher education partners.

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