Hackers hit New Orleans city government website — are other cities at risk?
No harm done this time, but it's an ominous occurrence.
- Late last week, the city of New Orleans was hit by a ransomware attack.
- Government offices were able to avoid the worst of it, as the result of following existing procedures.
- Attacks like this on city governments are more common than you'd think.
On Friday, December 13, the City of New Orleans was hit by a massive phishing and ransomware attack, shutting down government websites and leading to a state of emergency. At the time of writing, the sites are still down for the count, though city services are still available.
A city government that actually prepared for something?
The city was prepared for a cyber attack, having trained employees on what to do in such an emergency and having made a great deal of business easy to do offline. As soon as an attack was suspected, all city servers were powered down, computers were shut off, and all city employees disconnected from government Wi-Fi.
Another attack hit Rapides Parish the same day. No data was taken, and it is unknown if the attack was related. Investigations into the attacks are ongoing. The FBI and Secret Service have been called in to assist local investigators.
While New Orleans is the most prominent American city to be targeted, this isn't the first time that this kind of attack has hit a city. Cities in Texas, Georgia, and Florida have been hit alongside Johannesburg, South Africa, the largest city to be struck.The threat of other attacks is taken seriously by many cities in the United States, and more than two hundred mayors around the country have agreed not to pay any demanded ransom as a means of discouraging potential attackers.
Why attack a city at all?
Cities are often a little behind on technology, as anybody who has used a 10-year-out-of-date operating system while working for the government can attest to. Because of the importance of many of the systems cities operate, it can also be expected that some of them will pay the ransom to get their systems back online. When Johannesburg was hit, for example, government operations were severely affected.This isn't always given though, when New Bedford, Massachusetts, was hit by ransomware, they stalled the attackers until they replaced all of their needed software and machines. They didn't pay a cent in ransom money. This doesn't always work out though, Atlanta once paid $2.5M to get out of a $50,000 ransomware holdup
Is this the shape of things to come?
While the idea of launching a cyber attack on a major city to try and extort them for money might have been science fiction within living memory, it is now a common occurrence. The FBI, who hadn't made a significant comment on cyber attacks since 2016, issued new guidelines this year on the changing nature of the attacks.
While cyber attacks are just as frequent as they've always been, general malware attacks such as WannaCry have given way to ransomware that is ever "more targeted, sophisticated, and costly."They also warn that "ransomware actors have also targeted healthcare organizations, industrial companies, and the transportation sector."
They are on to something, as is isn't even the only notable cyber attack this week. The Epilepsy Foundation was just hit with an attack designed to trigger seizures in those with photosensitive epilepsy. In Canada, a major provider of heath diagnostic testing was also just hit.
It isn't all doom and gloom, though, that FBI announcement also includes lots of better practices to protect yourself and your organization, such as setting anti-maleware solutions to update automatically and spreading awareness of such threats.
While New Orleans is going to come out of this hacking attempt little worse for the wear, the event shows us how an otherwise failed attack can disrupt even a well-prepared city. And remember, New Orleans has come out as well as it has so far because it was a particularly tricky city to hit. Imagine how it would look if a city with even more reliance on technology and no training were struck.
Young people could even end up less anxiety-ridden, thanks to newfound confidence
- The coronavirus pandemic may have a silver lining: It shows how insanely resourceful kids really are.
- Let Grow, a non-profit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, ran an "Independence Challenge" essay contest for kids. Here are a few of the amazing essays that came in.
- Download Let Grow's free Independence Kit with ideas for kids.
Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?
Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways.
The future of learning will be different, and now is the time to lay the groundwork.
- The coronavirus pandemic has left many at an interesting crossroads in terms of mapping out the future of their respective fields and industries. For schools, that may mean a total shift not only in how educators teach, but what they teach.
- One important strategy moving forward, thought leader Caroline Hill says, is to push back against the idea that getting ahead is more important than getting along. "The opportunity that education has in this moment to really push students and think about what is the right way to live, how do we do it and how do we do it in a way that doesn't hurt or rob the dignity of other people?"
- Hill also argues that now is the time for bigger swings and for removing the barriers that limit education. The online space is boundary free and provides educators with new opportunities to connect with students around the world.
Remaining silent is being complicit.
- Protests around the world are demanding an end to police discrimination and violence against black citizens in America.
- Author and activist Dax-Devlon Ross offers advice on how white people can help during this moment.
- Ross's suggestions include thinking and voting locally, supporting black-owned businesses, and practicing self-reflection.
On Friday, the moon will pass through the Earth's outer shadow, known as the penumbra.