Hackney Council can’t pay housing benefit after cyber attack

The trials and tribulations of London’s Hackney Council continue after it suffered a “serious cyber attack” last week.

The nature of the cyber attack still remains a mystery to the general public, with the council declining to share details – although many in the IT security community consider ransomware to be the most likely culprit.

What isn’t in any doubt is the amount of disruption the attack is having on residents of the London borough of Hackney.

In an update posted on Friday, the council once again called upon residents and businesses to avoid making contact “unless absolutely necessary” as some of its services continue to be unavailable or suffer serious disruption.

At the time of writing, for instance, Hackney Council says:

  • It is unable to make payments including housing benefit, discretionary housing payments, and certain supplier payments.
  • It is unable to accept payments for rent, service changes, council tax, and business rates. Direct debit payments are, however, unaffected. The council says that if residents are unable to make payments because no options are available then they will not be penalised.
  • It is unable to accept new applications to join the borough’s housing waiting list, for housing benefit, or for the council tax reduction scheme.
  • It is unable to process license applications, and most planning services (such as planning applications and land searches) are unavailable.
  • In addition, residents are currently unavailable to report noise complaints – which presumably means you won’t be able to raise concerns if you hear a neighbour screaming in frustration that they can’t get hold of Hackney Council to get hold of their housing benefit.

These are the real-life victims of a cyber attack – thousands of innocent people, some of whom may desperately need money in their pocket to pay their rent, living in fear of eviction and homelessness.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon’s Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy.

Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.