Hackney Borough Council in north London has fallen victim to a serious cyber attack which is disrupting many of its services and IT systems.
The Council revealed some details about the security incident in an online post published today on its website, stating that it was working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and external cyber security experts to investigate the scope of the breach.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is also assisting the Council in the probe.
"This investigation is at an early stage, and limited information is currently available," Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, said.
We have been subject to a serious cyberattack, which is affecting many of our services and IT systems.— Hackney Council (@hackneycouncil) October 13, 2020
We're working with @NCSC and experts to investigate, and will provide updates as we get them.
Please avoid contacting us unless absolutely necessary.https://t.co/2nAt6aYKbd
Glanville added that their priority at the moment is to protect the data from cyber actors and to focus on delivering essential frontline services, especially to their most vulnerable residents.
He said that efforts are ongoing to restore affected services as earliest as possible.
Glanville also acknowledged that users may find some Council services slower than normal or completely unavailable for some time.
The Council's call centre is extremely busy at the moment, he revealed.
Glanville requested Hackney residents and businesses to contact the council officials only "if absolutely necessary".
He promised to provide more details about the incident as the "investigation progresses".
In a statement on its website, the NCSC said that it was aware of the cyber incident affecting Hackney Council and that it was supporting the Council in its efforts to restore essential services.
The NCSC added that it was working with partners to understand the impact of the incident.
While there is currently little information available about the cyber attack on Hackney's systems, the Council's statement that it was taking steps to protect its data indicates that it could be a ransomware attack.
Last month, researchers at the IBM Security X-Force Incident Response team said that they had observed an increase in the number of ransomware attacks in the second quarter of the year, with a noticeable jump in June.
Researchers said that ransomware threat groups are putting a great deal of work into updating their tools and techniques, to match the improvements that private firms have been making to recover from ransomware attacks - a continuation of the ongoing cyber arms race.
In August, the US cyber security firm Emsisoft disclosed in a report that British firms were hit by nearly 5,000 ransomware attacks last year, forcing them to pay out nearly £210 million in ransoms to cyber criminals.
Most of the ransoms British firms paid in 2019 were in the form of cryptocurrencies, which are usually difficult to trace to individuals. In many cases, the crooks who received the money were based in Russia and Eastern Europe.
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