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Cyberattack downs city computers in site of Navy attack

AP  |  Tallahassee (US) 

Federal authorities are investigating a cyberattack on the city of Pensacola, Florida, home to the naval air station where a Saudi flight student killed three sailors and wounded eight others on Friday.

Mayor Grover Robinson on Monday said it's not yet clear whether the two incidents are related and he asked for patience in a community still grieving over the shooting at the Navy installation, a central part of the local economy and public life.

We are a little bit hampered through this, the mayor said during his weekly briefing with local media.

City officials became aware of the cyberattack at about 1:30 am Saturday, many hours after the shooting, said city spokeswoman, Kaycee Lagarde.

She expressed caution about linking the two incidents although city officials were not prepared to outright dismiss any connections.

"As a precaution we have reported the incident to the federal government," Lagarde said, acknowledging the deadly violence at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

"It's too early to confirm or dispel," Lagarde said. That would be a question for the federal agencies.

Investigators are trying to establish whether the killer, 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, 21, of the Royal Saudi Air Force, acted alone or was part of a larger plot.

A spokesman for the FBI in Pensacola said he could not confirm if his agency had a role in the cyberattack investigation.

Ransomware cyberattacks on government systems have been on the rise in recent years, with some crippling services for long periods of times.

In May, a cyberattack hobbled Baltimore's computer network and cost the city more than USD 18 million to repair. City officials refused to pay demands for USD 76,000 in bitcoin.

During the summer, two Florida cities Riviera Beach and Lake City paid hackers more than USD 1 million combined after being targeted.

Pensacola's spokeswoman could not immediately discuss how officials became aware of the cyberattack, nor would she discuss if a ransom had been requested.

"We don't want to get into too many specifics because of security," Lagarde said.

The city's computer networks were disconnected from the Internet to prevent cyberintruders from causing further damage.

Much of the city's computer systems remained offline Monday.

However, city officials stressed that city offices were open and that all emergency services were running, including 911 services.

Some phone lines to city offices were not working as the city and federal authorities continued their investigation. The city's email and other electronic services were also down until further notice.

We're continuing to operate, Lagarde said. We just might have to do some things a little bit old-school, with pen and paper.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, December 10 2019. 03:05 IST