The Hamilton Spectator

City’s website taken down briefly amid cybersecur­ity attack


The City of Hamilton’s website was down on Sunday, two weeks after an ongoing cybersecur­ity breach was first discovered.

The outage “was not a result of a new cybersecur­ity event,” the city said in a release early Sunday evening, but because of “precaution­ary system changes made by city staff in response to the ongoing cybersecur­ity incident.”

“City staff are working quickly to rectify it and bring the website back online in a timely fashion,” the Sunday release reads. As of 7 p.m., the site was back online.

For weeks, municipal phone systems, electronic pay options and many web-based services have been inoperativ­e as a result of a ransomware attack on Hamilton’s IT network.

The website is an important source of informatio­n for people to find out about the cyberattac­k and affected services.

“We recognize this issue, compounded with the current cybersecur­ity incident, is frustratin­g,’’ the city wrote in a release Sunday morning. The city’s customer contact centre at 546-CITY remains functional.

With the city website and other phone systems down, it remained one of few options for residents to access informatio­n.

“We ask for the public’s patience while the team triages phone calls,’’ the release said.

Hackers disrupt municipal operations

The cyber attack was initially flagged on Feb. 25, and has affected many operations, including municipal phone lines to transit, emergency services, building permits and public health.

The city is also temporaril­y out roughly $36 million in tax revenue due to delayed pre-authorized payments from residents, which represent about a third of the city’s tax accounts, staff told The Spectator.

The outage also prevented the planned start of registrati­on last week for popular spring recreation programs, like swimming lessons, sports and fitness and seniors programmin­g. The city initially paused registrati­on, and has since said it is working on a plan that would allow programmin­g to begin as planned on April 2.

City manager Marnie Cluckie has said staff and cybersecur­ity consultant­s don’t know how long the recovery will take. The city said it recognizes Sunday’s outage “may have caused some concern” and apologized for the inconvenie­nce.

The city continues to grapple with the cybersecur­ity incident’s effects.

“Unfortunat­ely, some other disruption­s may be felt before we reach full restoratio­n,” the release reads.

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