An emergency was declared in New Orleans following suspicions of a cyberattack. NOLA Ready, an emergency preparedness Twitter account, posted on Friday about “suspicious activity” on the city’s online networks. In response, the tweets said, the city had activated its Emergency Operations Center.

The tweets also noted that the city was in touch with the state police, National Guard, the Secret Service, and the local branch of the FBI for help and resources in dealing with the problem. Nothing is known about what services and departments were affected by the shutdown but essential services like the fire department and 911 were still operational.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that computers were disconnected, offices were closed, and the city’s website taken down as officials worked to respond to an attempted cyberattack. Suspicious activity was first detected at around 5 a.m. and by 11 a.m., the call was made to declare an emergency and begin shutting things down.

“That’s the advice we got from our federal and state partners, and that’s the way our security team has been trained to respond,” the city’s chief information officer Kim LaGrue said.

While the exact nature of the attempted attack is unclear, it follows similar situations in July and November where ransomware attacks forced statewide emergencies. Atlanta, Baltimore, and several towns in Florida and Texas have also been targeted by coordinated ransomware attacks in 2019.

“One positive about being a city that has been touched by disasters,” the city’s homeland security director Collin Arnold explained. “...our plans and our activities reflect the fact that we can operate without the internet and without a city network.”

New Orleans police
A police vehicle is seen in New Orleans, June 20, 2015. REUTERS/Lee Celano