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Louisiana schools hacked, Gov. John Bel Edwards issues emergency declaration

Ann Schmidt

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an emergency declaration on Wednesday after three school systems in the state suffered from malware attacks.

Sabine, Morehouse and the City of Monroe school districts were affected by the attack, though Edwards didn’t provide details about what exactly happened. He says the declaration makes state resources available to help local governments respond to the cyberattacks and stop future data loss.

“The state was made aware of a malware attack on a few north Louisiana school systems and we have been coordinating a response ever since,” Edwards said in a statement.

“This is exactly why we established the Cyber Security Commission, focused on preparing for, responding to and preventing cybersecurity attacks, and we are well-positioned to assist local governments as they battle this current threat,” Edwards added.

According to the news release, Louisiana is working with state police, the FBI, the state’s national guard, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), and the Louisiana Office of Technology Services along with other agencies to respond to the incident.

“This is the first activation of Louisiana’s emergency support function relating to cybersecurity, which is newly created in Louisiana, in anticipation of the threat of cyber attacks,” the release said.

Edwards' office says the declaration will remain in effect through Aug. 21, unless terminated earlier.

The news of the attacks comes more than a month after a Palm Beach, Florida, suburb agreed to pay  $600,000 in ransom to hackers who took over its computer system, the latest in thousands of attacks worldwide aimed at extorting money from governments and businesses.

The Riviera Beach City Council voted unanimously in June to pay the hackers' demands, believing it had no choice if it wanted to retrieve its records, which the hackers encrypted. The council already voted to spend almost $1 million on new computers and hardware after hackers captured the city's system three weeks before the vote.

Numerous governments and businesses have been hit in the United States and worldwide in recent years. Baltimore refused to pay hackers $76,000 after an attack in May. The U.S. government indicted two Iranians last year for allegedly unleashing more than 200 ransomware attacks, including against the cities of Atlanta and Newark, New Jersey. The men, who have not been arrested, received more than $6 million in payments and caused $30 million in damage to computer systems, federal prosecutors have said.

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The federal government last year also accused a North Korean programmer of committing the "WannaCry" attack that infected government, bank, factory and hospital computers in 150 countries. He is also believed to have stolen $81 million from a Bangladesh bank. He also remains in his home country.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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