Cyberattack on Hamilton City Hall Expands to Impact Additional Services

Hamilton is currently facing a ransomware attack, causing widespread disruptions to city services for more than a week. City manager Marnie Cluckie disclosed the nature of the cyber attack during a virtual press conference on Monday, marking the first public acknowledgment of the incident since it began on February 25. 
The attack has resulted in the shutdown of almost all city phone lines, hampering city council operations and affecting numerous services such as the bus schedule app, library WiFi, and permit applications.
Cluckie mentioned that the city has not provided a specific timeframe for resolving the situation, emphasizing that systems will only be restored once deemed safe and secure. While the city has not detected any unauthorized access to personal data, Hamilton police have been alerted and will conduct an investigation.
Regarding the attackers’ demands, Cluckie remained cautious, refraining from disclosing details such as the requested amount of money or their location due to the sensitive nature of the situation. However, she mentioned that the city is covered by insurance for cybersecurity breaches and has enlisted the expertise of cybersecurity firm Cypfer to manage the incident response.
Ransomware attacks, characterized by denying access to systems or data until a ransom is paid, can have devastating consequences, as highlighted by the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. Although paying the ransom does not guarantee system restoration, it is sometimes deemed necessary, as seen in previous cases involving other municipalities like St. Marys and Stratford.
Once the city’s systems are restored, Cluckie will oversee a comprehensive review to understand the breach’s cause and implement preventive measures. Council meetings have been postponed until at least March 15 due to operational constraints, with plans to resume once the situation stabilizes.
The impact of the attack on various city services is extensive. Phone lines for programs, councillors, and essential facilities like long-term care homes are down. Online systems for payments and services related to fire prevention, permits, and property are inaccessible. Engineering services, cemeteries, libraries, public health, property taxes, Ontario Works, vendor payments, waste management, child care, transit, Hamilton Water, city mapping, and recreation facilities are all affected to varying degrees, with disruptions in communication, payments, and service availability.
Efforts are underway to mitigate the effects of the attack, but until the situation is resolved, residents and city officials must navigate the challenges posed by the ransomware attack.

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