FBI: No link between Cyber attack and attack on the Navy base


The FBI said on Monday that it had found no evidence of a link between a cyber attack on Florida Panhandle’s computer systems and the attack at the naval air terminal last week where three Saudi flight students were killed and eight others were wounded by a Saudi flight student.

Officials in the town of Pensacola were informed of the cyber attack at the Pensacola Naval Air Station early in Saturday, hours after Friday. Much of the city’s computer system was offline on Monday morning, and cyber attack was warned by federal governments as precaution.

In a brief statement the FBI tweeted that its initial investigation did not identify a connection between the cyber attack and the explosion. “Our initial review continues,” said the FBI statement without further explanation.

Earlier Monday, Mayor Pensacola Grover Robinson requested patience in a community that is still grieving over the Navy shooting, which is a core part of the local economy and public life.

“We’re a bit hampered by this,” said the mayor.

City officials became aware at around 1:30 a.m. of the cyber attack. Kaycee Lagarde, the city spokesman, said Saturday, several hours after Friday’s shooting.

“We reported the incident to the federal government as a precaution,” Lagarde had said before.

Investigators attempt to establish whether the murderer, Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, 21, of the Royal Saudi Air Force, acted on his own or was a part of a large complot in Friday’s assault at the base.

In recent years, Ransomware cyberattacks on government systems have been growing, with some paralyzing services for long periods.

In May, a cyber attack struck the computer network of Baltimore and cost the city more than $18 million. City officials refused to pay Bitcoin requests for $76,000.

In the summer, two cities during Florida— Riviera Beach and Lake City— paid over $1 million to hackers combined after being hacked.

Pensacola’s spokesperson could neither discuss immediately how officials became aware of a cyber attack nor whether a ransom was sought.

“Because of security, we don’t want to get into too many details,” Lagarde said.

The computer networks in the city were disconnected from the Internet in order to prevent further damage by cyber intruders.

Most computer systems in the city remained offline on Monday. The city officials however stressed that city offices were open and all emergency services, including 911 services, were in place.

Several city office telephone lines were not functioning since the city and federal authorities started their enquiry. Emails from the city and other online facilities were also reduced until further notice.

“We’re still working,” said Lagarde. “We would just have to do a little old-school stuff with pen and paper.”

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.