Criminal cyberattack is 'morally repugnant' says angry mayor, as council battles to restore services

East London council tries to restore services after 'serious and complex' attack creates disruption.

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Hackney Council in London is continuing to try to restore services after a "serious and complex" cyberattack 10 days ago disrupted a number of its systems.

"I am incredibly angry that organised criminals have chosen to attack us in this way, and in the middle of dealing with a global pandemic. It is morally repugnant, and is making it harder for us to deliver the services you rely on," said Hackney's mayor, Philip Glanville.

He said that some council services may be significantly disrupted for some time. The attack has impacted the council's legacy and non-cloud-based systems, including many that are needed for essential services such as taking or making payments, logging repairs, and approving licensing and planning applications.

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Glanville said newer, cloud-based services were not affected and that systems important to combating coronavirus – such as local contact tracing – were operating.

"We're quickly finding workarounds where we can, and some vital payments, including housing benefit payments, are now being made. We have also now put in place arrangements so that residents can report housing repairs to us and are working hard to put similar solutions in place for other services," he said.

It is still unclear exactly what sort of cyberattack took place. The mayor said the council, which provides services to 280,000 people in east London, wanted to say more about the nature of the attack and the impact it was having on services, but had to make sure it was not "inadvertently assisting the attackers by doing so". 

"This is a serious and complex criminal attack on public services, and we'll do everything we can to ensure these attackers face justice," Glanville said.

The council said a number of services had been affected as a result of the attack. According to its service status page:

  • It is currently unable to accept some payments including: rents and service charges, council tax and business rates
  • Payments to some adult social care service users may not be paid
  • It cannot make some payments including: discretionary housing payments, and certain supplier payments
  • Non-emergency repairs may take longer than usual 
  • It is unable to accept new applications to join the housing waiting list, for housing benefit or for the council tax reduction scheme
  • It is unable to process licence applications, and applications for visitor parking vouchers are unavailable
  • Most planning services are unavailable, including planning applications and land searches
  • Residents are currently unable to report noise complaints but there may be a delay in responding to other reports and orders across the council