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The Louisiana National Guard stepped in to thwart a series of cyberattacks after several government offices across the state were targeted in recent weeks, according to a Friday Reuters report.
With the 2020 presidential election just days away, hackers seem to be targeting vulnerabilities in local government systems at an increasing rate. A cybersecurity consultant familiar with the matter told the outlet that authorities in Washington state recently faced a similar threat. Hackers hit government offices there with malware known for deploying ransomware, malicious software typically used to shut off access until the attackers are paid off.
Two people with knowledge of the events in Louisiana told Reuters that it wasn’t immediately clear whether the hackers simply wanted to extort money or were intentionally trying to disrupt systems tied to the election. While the attacks successfully compromised several government offices in northern Louisiana, officials thwarted the campaign in its early stages before “significant harm was done.” A spokesman for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office told the outlet that because Louisiana is a “top down state,” meaning all election data is centrally stored, election officials are better equipped to quickly respond to cyber threats.
In their investigation, experts reportedly found a tool described as a remote access trojan that has previously been used in hacks traced to a group associated with the North Korean government. However, cybersecurity analysts familiar with this RAT say parts of its code have been posted in an online computer virus repository, so it’s possible that an entirely unrelated group of hackers could have copied the code and used it, Reuters reports.
A spokesman for the Louisiana State Police confirmed to the outlet that they had been called to respond to the cyberattacks but declined to comment further. The Governor’s office said they couldn’t comment on ongoing investigations.
Ransomware attacks on high profile corporations and agencies have grown alarmingly frequent in recent years. Previous attacks have taken out government systems for Baltimore, Maryland, and Durham, North Carolina, as well as the network that supports the court system for the entire state of Texas. Last month, a bungled ransomware attack shut down a major hospital in Germany, resulting in the death of a patient whose treatment was delayed.