Some Akron City Services Unavailable Following Hack Attempt

The would-be phishing attack Jan. 22 didn’t penetrate the Ohio city’s systems, but IT personnel have taken some services offline and are updating systems as a precaution.

by Doug Livingston, Akron Beacon Journal / January 29, 2019
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(TNS) — Technological issues continue for the city of Akron after an attempted cyberattack last week.

FBI, state and local officials are investigating the unsuccessful attempt by hackers. Officials say the breach used "sophisticated phishing email messages" to plant a virus. A message that followed provided an email link to the dark web.

The city didn't take the bait, no personnel, taxpayer or customer information was leaked and all data were backed up on city servers, city spokeswoman Ellen Lander Nischt said Monday.

But residents are still dealing with the fallout as city systems for communicating and paying bills are turned off, then on and then off again for software updates and installations. Customers are unable to pay utility bills online. The city's 311 information system stopped working for some cellphone users. The 311 online option was taken down last Tuesday as a precaution while residents bombarded the system with requests to have their snowy streets plowed.

The 311 system came back online then was off again Monday. It should be operational to all users later this week, officials said. The city is turning to social media to keep residents informed. For updates, visit facebook.com/AkronOhio/ or twitter.com/AkronOhioMayor.

The city is also encouraging residents to pay sewer, water and trash bills by mail or in person at the Akron Utilities Business Office.

"We have suspended all penalties and fees and water disconnections during this period," Nischt told City Council on Monday. She and Mark Petit, who oversees information technology services shared with the county, reminded the public that there should be no trouble requesting police, fire or emergency medical services throughout the ordeal.

"There's no reason to fear that you will not get through to 911 if you call," Nischt said.

The city became aware of the cyberattack on Jan. 22. Interruptions will continue throughout an ongoing remediation process.

City administrators suspect the hack was "financially motivated," but they could not say how much was demanded or in what form the hackers expected the payment. Officials added that there's no evidence at this time of personal information of residents, taxpayers and customers being compromised.

The city's email system is "greatly affected." Emails sent to or from council members should be delivered when the system reboots, officials said. Until then, residents can call 311 or 330-375-2311 to be connected to the correct department.

Nischt set up a Gmail account and used county email Monday to communicate with media.

©2019 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio). >Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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