The city of Pensacola is struggling to recover from a cyber attack that hit its computer network over the weekend. Some services are still affected but no critical ones.
Few details are available but the attack prompted the city to disconnect much of its network until a solution for the problem was found.
Multiple systems are down
The incident became known around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday and city employees in the IT department have been working to restore the network.
It is unclear what type of cyber incident is causing the issues or how many computers it affected but the online payment systems at Pensacola Energy and for city sanitation are among them.
Due to the nature of the information available on these systems, investigators are now trying to determine if data was exposed.
Computer-based communication, including email, is also down but 911 and other emergency services (police and fire departments) remained unaffected and online permitting is available.
Some phones have been impacted; the 311 customer service is able to receive calls but responding to requests may not be immediately possible, reads a statement from the City of Pensacola.
“We severed things immediately as soon as we found out we were having this problem,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson in a press conference today, reports the Pensacola News Journal.
Most of the systems currently offline are so because the IT department took the decision as a preventive measure, said Pensacola spokeswoman Kaycee Lagarde.
Attack type unclear
Robinson would not comment on whether the city received a ransom demand, which would point to a ransomware incident; this type of attacks has been causing victims left and right across the U.S. and not just among city administrations, but schools and businesses, too. A look at this summary for the past two weeks paints a grim picture.
Involved in the investigation of the attack are multiple federal authorities that include the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The FBI’s Field Office in Jacksonville acknowledged that they have been notified of the incident and that they were offering resources in assistance.
The City of Pensacola has notified the FBI of a potential cyber related incident. We are providing resources to assist. No additional information is available at this time.
— FBI Jacksonville (@FBIJacksonville) December 9, 2019
For the time being, there is no clear estimate on when the problem would be fully resolved.
Since the attack occurred a few hours after the deadly shooting at the naval air station in Pensacola, questions were raised whether the two incidents were related. Federal agencies would not comment on this, though, and city officials were not ready to dismiss the theory just yet.