Pensacola hit by Cyberattack

Pensacola, Florida, has experienced a cyberattack and disconnected a few city services until it is resolved. The attack started on Friday, December 6. City emails and phones, 311 customer service and online payments for Pensacola Energy and Pensacola Sanitation Services are impacted by the cyberattack. Emergency services, including 911, have not been impacted. “The FBI said Sunday that it is working with the ‘presumption that this was an act of terrorism’ after the shooting.”

“We severed things immediately as soon as we found out we were having this problem,” Mayor Grover Robinson said. “So [public safety services] were severed immediately. … They’re up and running and no problems at this particular time.”

“State and local governments have been particularly visible targets for ransomware attacks,” the FBI said in October. However, other organizations have also been affected. Typically, small towns are the targets of cyberattacks, however cities like Atlanta, Baltimore and Albany have also been attacked. Phishing and ransomware attacks are the most common.

“We’re continuing to operate. We just might have to do some things a little bit old-school, with pen and paper,” Kaycee Lagarde, the city’s spokesperson said.

The city was made aware of the attack around 1:30am Saturday. Pensacola disconnected much of the city network to make sure everything is good and safe and to place precautions from future cyberattacks. As of the time of reporting, some city services are still down; it is unclear how long these services will be down. Officials are investigating if any personal information has been leaked.

“Unfortunately, we’re living in a world where as our cyber defenses are getting advanced, so are the ways of cybercriminals as well,” said Dr. El-Sheik, director of cybersecurity at the University of West Florida.

Officials are not sure if the cyberattack is related to Friday’s shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. For precaution, the case has been reported to the FBI and Homeland Security.

On Friday, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a 21-year old Saudi national studying at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, shot and killed three sailors. Alshamrani was a member of the Saudi Air Force. Four are dead, including the gunman, several others are injured, including two sheriff deputies that engaged the gunman. He was training at the air station in Pensacola as part of the U.S. Air Force Foreign Military Sales training funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He was in the United States since August 2017 for this training and was scheduled to leave in August 2020. It is unclear how he was able to acquire a handgun; his motive is also unclear. It was later revealed that his social media accounts criticized America’s support for Israel.

The full scope of the cyberattack is being investigated, as well as any potential ties to the Naval station shooting; at the time of reporting no connections were identified. Details of the cyberattack and shooting cannot be revealed because of the ongoing investigation.