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City of Hamilton website offline due to ‘precautionary system changes’ amid ongoing cybersecurity incident

The City of Hamilton pointed to “precautionary system changes” made in response to the ongoing ransomware attack as the cause of its website outage on Sunday.

Hours after city officials alerted locals on X, formerly Twitter, of its downed page, it was determined upon review that Hamilton.ca, including its various extensions and other related websites, were made unavailable due to new changes made by staff in response to the existing cybersecurity incident.

“The website outage was not a result of a new cybersecurity event,” officials wrote in a release.

While city staff are working to resolve the issue, they did not provide a timeline for when the website will be brought back online. At the time of publication, it appeared Hamilton.ca was functioning again, however city officials said on X that Engage Hamilton, Open Hamilton and the recreation sites are offline.

“We recognize that this issue may have caused some concern and want to sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. As we continue to mitigate the impacts of the cybersecurity incident, unfortunately, some other disruptions may be felt before we reach full restoration.”

City of Hamilton ‘ransomware attack’

The ransomware attack began on Feb. 25, affecting multiple municipal systems. It was revealed days later that several city services were plagued by the attack, including, but not limited to, tax services, telephone lines, transit and Ontario Works and Special Supports.

All committee meetings were cancelled until March 1 due to the system outage, as there was no internet access in council chambers.

On March 4, the City of Hamilton admitted to contending with a ransomware attack – though few details have been divulged so far.

Hamilton City Manager Marnie Cluckie told reporters then that a team of experts is working nonstop to get the affected computer systems back online.

“I can tell you though, that we will only restore systems when we are confident we can do so safely and securely,” Cluckie said. At that news conference, Cluckie added the city does not believe anyone’s personal data and information has been compromised.

Mayor Andrea Horwath said the city will provide regular updates on the situation as soon as new information becomes available.

“Council and I recognize very clearly how disruptive things have been and what a challenging time that has been for the people of our city,” Horwath said during a media availability on March 4.

“Once we have gone to a place where we’ve restored all of our systems, city manager Cluckie and our team have committed to conduct a full review to understand how this breach was able to happen based on their findings.”

In an update on March 9, city officials said critical services like curbside waste collection, transit and emergency services are operational.

With files from Katherine DeClerq and CP24’s Joanna Lavoie