Canadian City Says Timescale for Recovering from Ransomware Attack ‘Unknown’

The Canadian city of Hamilton is still getting over a ransomware attack that compromised nearly every facet of municipal operations. 

Since February 25, when the ransomware attack was first reported, city officials have been working nonstop. Foundational services, such as waste collection, transit, and water and wastewater treatment, are functioning as of Wednesday.

However, the attack has impacted nearly every online payment system, forcing the city to rely on cash transactions and other manual processes. All fines, tickets, and tax payments must be made in person. 

Numerous municipal services, including cemeteries, child care centres, and public libraries, were reported by the city as having phone system or website issues. Before March 15, there will be no more city council meetings, and the city’s libraries will no longer provide WiFi, public computers, printing services, or other services. 

“The City of Hamilton took swift action to investigate, protect systems and minimize impact on the community. We engaged a team of experts, insurers, legal counsel, and relevant authorities and [are] working diligently to restore the City’s system in a safe and secure manner,” the city said in a statement. “While a timeline for recovery is not yet known, the City is committed to resolving the situation as quickly and effectively as possible.” 

Hamilton is located roughly 40 miles from Toronto and has a population of nearly 600,000. The city stated that it is currently investigating whether citizen data was stolen.

No ransomware group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet, and local officials have not responded to calls for comment. 

City officials held a press conference on Tuesday, and City Manager Marnie Cluckie stated that it is “impossible to know how long it will take us to get up and running again.” 

Cluckie declined to comment on whether the city is in talks with the ransomware group, stating that they will “do what is best for the city.” She confirmed that the city has cyber insurance. 

During the press conference, Cluckie was asked if the attack would follow the same schedule as the Toronto Library, which dealt with troubles for more than four months after a ransomware attack. Cluckie claims the hired cyber specialists would only advise her that each assault and recovery is unique.

Hamilton is the second municipality in Canada to deal with a ransomware attack over the last week. Ponoka, a small town about an hour west of Edmonton, recently dealt with a ransomware attack that caused system failures for the government.

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