Hamilton City Hit by Ransomware Attack, Services Paralyzed for First Time


Hamilton, a city in Ontario, Canada, has been grappling with a debilitating ransomware attack that has disrupted its services for over a week. The nature of the cyber attack was officially disclosed during a virtual call led by City Manager Marnie Cluckie and Mayor Andrea Horwath, marking the city's first media conference since the breach commenced on February 25th.

The impact of the ransomware attack has been far-reaching, affecting nearly all city phone lines, paralysing city council operations, and causing disruptions to numerous services. Services impacted include the bus schedule app, library WiFi, permit applications, and more. The city has refrained from providing a timeline for resolving the situation, emphasizing a commitment to restoring systems only when confident in their safety and security. Although the city asserts that personal data has not been accessed, Hamilton police have been notified and are undertaking an investigation.

Amid the crisis, the city has engaged cybersecurity experts from Cypfer to manage the incident response, including forensics, incident response, and legal services. Ransomware attacks, characterized by denying user access to systems or data until a ransom is paid, pose severe risks, according to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. These attacks can lead to devastating consequences for the organizations involved, with threat actors becoming increasingly covert in their operations.

Despite the disruption, Hamilton is not alone in facing such challenges. Other municipalities, including St. Marys and Stratford, have encountered ransomware attacks in recent years, underscoring the pervasive threat posed by cybercriminals. In response to the attack, Hamilton has halted council meetings until at least March 15th, acknowledging the need to prioritize system restoration and operational recovery.

The impact on various city services has been significant, with disruptions ranging from phone lines and online systems to property taxes, public health, transit, and more. Many services are experiencing delays or are completely unavailable, affecting residents' ability to access essential resources and information. The situation remains fluid as the city works diligently to mitigate the effects of the ransomware attack and restore normal operations.

In the aftermath of the incident, Mayor Horwath has committed to a thorough review to understand the breach's cause and prevent future occurrences. Despite the challenges posed by the attack, the city remains focused on providing essential services and ensuring the safety and well-being of its residents.