Hacking sparks meltdown in council’s e-mail system

EDINBURGH City Council workers have been unable to send e-mails after its system was hacked.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 17th November 2012, 12:00 pm

City councillors have been unable to respond to concerns and queries from hundreds of constituents after the council’s e-mail system was breached.

It is believed a worker clicked on a link in a rogue e-mail, sparking electronic chaos across the system.

Councillor Maureen Child said she had failed to send between 150 and 200 e-mails to residents with Hotmail and live e-mail accounts over the last week after an e-mail containing a malicious link was sent to council employees.

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The city council is reminding staff to remain vigilant and not to open “malicious messages” or e-mail links.

Councillor Child – whose ward covers Portobello and Craigmillar, and who has 1400 constituents on e-mail, more than 100 of whom have Hotmail or live e-mail addresses – said: “As a result of phishing attempts, the council e-mails are getting bounce-back messages advising that e-mails have been blocked by other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who have blacklisted the edinburgh.gov name.

“This has really hamstrung the way I function.”

She believes the problem stemmed from a malicious e-mail sent to council workers, advising them that their e-mails had been blocked and urging them to click on a link to solve the problem, which led to the system being hacked.

She added: “About ten people have contacted me directly by e-mail in the last week who I’ve not been able to respond to. Save the Brae has been in touch about organising a meeting and I have had to go through the secretary of Craigmillar Community Council, Terry Tweed, and ask him to pass on my reply.”

Councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston, Alex Lunn, was also unable to contact constituents by e-mail.

“This is hugely inconvenient, especially since Hotmail seems to be the domain that’s affected and Hotmail is one of the most widely used systems in the UK,” he said. “I would be horrified to think that any of my constituents thought I was ignoring them.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Like all other organisations, a high percentage of e-mails we receive are spam. We have robust systems in place to protect staff but occasionally some malicious messages get through. We treat all security breaches very seriously and send regular reminders to staff to look out for spam. Almost all of the e-mail blocks have now been removed.”