Pensacola, Fla., Site of Recent Shooting, Hit by Cyberattack

Hours after a gunman opened fire at the city's U.S. naval base, hackers crippled large parts of its network and incapacitated a number of services. The mayor has said it is unclear if the two events are related.

by Lucas Ropek / December 9, 2019
David Rangel/Unsplash

Pensacola, Fla., the site of a recent deadly shooting involving a Saudi national, is currently undergoing a cyberattack, according to the office of Mayor Grover Robinson

The attack, which apparently struck around 1:45 a.m. Saturday, has affected much of the city network, email, phone lines, 311 customer service and online payment services, though its emergency support services like police and fire have not been impacted, according to the office.   

"The city of Pensacola is experiencing a cyber attack that began this weekend that is impacting our city network, including phones and email at City Hall and some of our other buildings," Robinson said at his weekly press briefing on Monday morning. "We're still trying to figure out what's happened, what's there and what there may be potential for." 

The nature of the cyberattack hasn't yet been made clear and officials are still trying to determine whether any valuable data may have been lost as a result of the incident. Robinson said he could not comment whether the attack was ransomware or not.  

The attack came hours after a Saudi Air Force trainee opened fire at the city's Naval Air Station  killing three people before being shot dead by a sheriff's deputy. The shooting, which occurred Friday, Dec. 6, has spurred international controversy due to the trainee's ties to the foreign nation, and the FBI is currently investigating the incident as a potential terrorist attack

Motives for the shootings are so far unclear, though the perpetrator apparently tweeted criticism of U.S. foreign policy including support for Israel before the deadly incident took place. 

Given the recent violence, the cyberincident certainly seems oddly timed, though Robinson said it's unclear if the two events are related. 

"We don't know if they're connected or not," Robinson commented during his press briefing. "We have discussed and we have talked with the FBI. It's my understanding that we sent stuff to them, and we're continuing to work. Our computer people worked through the weekend to see what was happening."

In a year during which cyberattacks on governments increased, Pensacola is only the most recent of several Florida cities to suffer an incident. The FBI's Jacksonville field office confirmed over Twitter Monday that it had been contacted about the incident and would be assisting the city with resources. 

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