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Louisiana ransomware attack disrupts trucking operations

Louisiana ransomware attack disrupts trucking operations on Nov. 18. Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Some trucking companies that haul overweight loads say they were unable to obtain permits on Nov. 18 because of a ransomware attack that crippled many state agencies in Louisiana.

State websites and online services — including those of the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) and the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV)— were taken down after the attack was discovered around 11 a.m. Monday.

One company, Triple G. Express Inc., headquartered in New Orleans, said it couldn’t move overweight intermodal containers for the company’s primary account headed to the Port of New Orleans on Monday.

“Any overweight load was halted because we had no way of getting permits whatsoever,” Mason Guillot, dispatcher with family-owned Triple G, told FreightWaves.

Approximately 50 of Triple G’s 100-plus owner-operators were affected by the state systems being down, Guillot said.

“We didn’t let our customer down in any way, we just moved what we had available until the system was back up and running,” said Guillot, whose father, Randy Guillot, was recently installed as chairman of American Trucking Associations. “We are fortunate that we have enough volumes where we can do that, but for some people that might not be the case.”

The DOTD is currently hand-writing permits until its web-based services are back online, Rodney Mallett, communications director for the state agency, told FreightWaves.

Some carriers said it was tough to get through to DOTD personnel after the attack as phone lines were flooded because the agency’s online permitting system was down, according to Chance McNeely, executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association.

“We appreciate that they [DOTD] reverted back to the old way of issuing permits while the IT issues are being resolved,” McNeely told FreightWaves. “The only problem is that they are not sufficiently staffed to take on the workload that had been primarily automated.”

Among the state services still down is the OMV, “which may be limited as Internet access is restored to state agencies and workstations are repaired,” according to Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

“The majority of the service interruption seen by employees and the public yesterday was due to our aggressive actions to combat the attack,” Dardenne said in a statement. “We are confident we did not have any lost data and we appreciate the public’s patience as we continue to bring services online over the next few days.”

Janice Enich, human resources administrator of Bengal Transportation, headquartered in Geismar, Louisiana, said she was unable to obtain a motor vehicle record (MVR) for a driver through a third-party company Monday because the state’s system was down.

“They are waiting on the state before I can get that information,” Enich told FreightWaves.

The state’s cybersecurity commissioner, Jeff Moulton, said the ransomware attack stemmed from an unapproved software download containing a virus, news outlet WBRZ reported. Nearly 600 computers were affected, and approximately 130 servers will need to be rebuilt, according to the outlet.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted on Nov. 19 that the state did not pay a ransom and there is no “anticipated data loss” from the attack.

Following the attack, Edwards tweeted that the state’s Office of Technology Services (OTS) “identified a cybersecurity threat that affected some, but not all state servers.”

“OTS staff continues to expand its security presence following the incident, both from systems and training perspectives,” he said.

This is the second ransomware attack on the state this year. A coordinated attack targeted nearly half a dozen school districts in July.

Government security is lacking as more than 621 business agencies have been hit in the first nine months of 2019, according to Brett Callow, a spokesman with Emsisoft, an anti-malware firm.

Trucking companies are also vulnerable, Callow said.

Peter Latta, chief executive of A. Duie Pyle, a large less-than-truckload carrier based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, opened up about his company’s ransomware attack earlier this year.

The company refused to pay the ransom but instead took the approach it was going to be honest with its customers, Latta told FreightWaves.

The U.S. detected more malware threats than any other country with 47%, followed by Indonesia with 9% and Brazil with 8% in the first quarter of 2019, according to a recent report by Malwarebytes, a cybersecurity firm.

Ransomware attacks are up 195% in the first quarter of 2019, compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, the company said.

Callow said if companies don’t have the resources in house to make sure their systems are secure from malware attacks, they should seek professional help.

“The message is prepare now or pay later,” Callow told FreightWaves. “Everyone will be targeted at some point.”

Read more articles by Clarissa Hawes

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Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected].