Less than a day after a Saudi airman shot and killed three members of the U.S. military at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, a cyberattack has forced the Florida city to shut down many of its systems, with the mayor declining to confirm or deny whether a ransom demand accompanied the attack.
“The City of Pensacola has experienced a cyber incident, and we have disconnected much of our city network until the issue can be resolved,” the city wrote in an alert on its website as well as a statement posted to Facebook.
“I can confirm the city of Pensacola has experienced a cyberattack and we’ve disconnected much of our city’s network until the issue can be resolved,” city spokeswoman Kaycee Lagarde said in a statement. “As a precaution we have reported the incident to the federal government.”
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson was cited by CNN affiliate WEAR as saying, "We are at this point going in two different directions. We're working it from a legal standpoint, trying to work it forensically that way, trying to figure out who this was. And two where do we go from here in putting our system back together."
Among the systems down or affected are city emails and some city phones, 311 service response and online payments to Pensacola Energy, sanitation services and other entities. Pensacola noted that it “remains operational” and stressed that “911 is NOT impacted.”
If the incident is a ransomware attack, Pensacola will join a long list of municipalities victimized by hackers seeking payment in exchange for restoring compromised files.
“The threats posed by this attack and the attacks that have crippled cities across the United States are real and will continue rising in frequency if governments do not prioritize upgrading outdated cybersecurity technology,” said iBoss Founder Paul Martini. “As a growing number employees perform work-related functions remotely, the probability of attacks which could massively disrupt infrastructure, public services and more increases as well.”
Pensacola is still reeling from the shooting at the naval airbase. Lagarde said no link has been established between the cyberattack, which was discovered at about 1:30 Saturday morning, and the shooting that took place Friday around 6:30 a.m. Authorities are treating the shooting as a terrorist incident while the investigation is underway.
Noting that “it’s too early to confirm or dispel” whether the two events are connected, Lagarde said, “That would be a question for the federal agencies.”