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Baton Rouge City Hall

As New Orleans' City Hall continues to recover from a crippling cyberattack that began on Friday, officials with East Baton Rouge's Information Services Department say they're keeping a close watch on the city-parish's own technology and doing what they can to protect it.

"We're constantly evaluating the systems and technologies to make sure we're as secure as we can be," said Eric Romero, the city-parish's head of IT, adding that the Department of Homeland Security provides the municipality with constant updates on the latest threats. 

Still, Romero said he couldn't get too specific about security measures. That's to prevent potential hackers from getting an idea of city-parish vulnerabilities. 

New Orleans was hit with the cyberattack Friday morning, leading officials to order city employees shut down their computers in an effort to limit damage. 

Romero said city-parish employees in Baton Rouge have similarly been trained to quickly respond to cyberattacks. 

"It's not just going to be technology that prevents an attack," Romero said. "The employees have to understand the importance of taking cybersecurity seriously."

The attack in New Orleans followed similar episodes in other major cities, including Baltimore and Atlanta, as well as a recent ransomware attack that targeted Louisiana's Office of Motor Vehicles last month and led Gov. John Bel Edwards to a declare a state of emergency.

Baton Rouge Community College also faced a ransomware attack earlier this month. 

Romero said the city-parish's first major experience with a cyber episode occurred during the civil unrest in 2016, when Baton Rouge faced a brief denial-of-service attack. That's when hackers try to limit access to networks or devices. 

A larger attack planned for later in the week was ultimately thwarted with the assistance of the FBI and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, Romero said. 

Mark Armstrong, the mayor's spokesman, said the city-parish takes cyber security "very seriously" and pointed to the parish’s new “All-Hazards Recovery Plan," which provides guidance when the city faces a disaster.

That plan — which only briefly mentions cyber security twice — is modeled after FEMA's National Disaster Recovery Framework and predesignates recovery responsibilities for dozens of public agencies, private companies and nonprofits.


Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter @blakepater