A council has admitted its IT service is being targeted by hackers, who have scrambled files and demanded money.

Systems at Redcar and Cleveland Council have been down for almost three weeks after a cyber attack. Since the attack on 8 February, the council has been working with the National Cyber Security Centre and the National Crime Agency, but it has taken 19 days for the council to admit the attacking they are dealing with is ransomware.

Informing the public their council is being held to ransom is a key piece of information that many think people have a right to know. It makes the situation far more serious as hackers are in control of computer systems and possibly sensitive data.

Ransomware is a unique and growing problem for large targets like public authorities and companies. The only options are to pay the cyber criminals or rebuild from scratch by using offline backups, which is often far more costly.

Councillor Mary Lanigan, leader of the council, said: “Significant progress has been made. All frontline services have continued, payments continue to be processed as normal, and there is no evidence so far to suggest any personal information has been removed from our servers. However, it may be some time before our IT capabilities are fully restored which may mean frustration for the public in dealing with us administratively.”

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