Police are on the hunt for hackers behind a cyber attack on the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the local council for the Western Isles.
A criminal probe has been launched into the data breach as the council works to get its IT infrastructure back online.
The council’s website has been offline for more than 24 hours and it is believed schools and other council facilities such as sports centres have seen some disruption.
Malcolm Burr, the council’s chief executive, confirmed: “The comhairle has been victim of a criminal cyber incident which has affected quite significantly our IT system in the immediate period.”
The council’s digital technology infrastructure has been severely hit, resulting in “significant disruption.”
The current priority is to “restore and secure” data highlighted the council. which is taking professional advice from the Scottish Government and IT specialist firm, Dell.
Mr Burr said the “in the process of assessing how serious that position is.”
Forces work together to restore systems
Efforts to gauge the situation is a “marathon not a sprint. It is a detailed piece of work.
“Our own excellent IT staff are being assisted in that by Police Scotland, by the National Cybersecurity centre, and by Scottish government colleagues.
“So it’s a combined effort but it does take time to assess the effect on on systems.”
IT specialist firm, Dell, which has an ongoing contract with the council for back-up work, is also involved in the efforts.
Mr Burr added: “We are still investigating this incident and this will take some time.”
Problems emerged on Tuesday morning when “access to systems were not possible” and it became clear “fairly swiftly that this was a significant incident and that it was externally caused.”
He pointed out that : “By no means all of our systems are affected.
‘Vast majority of data unaffected’
“The vast majority of our social work, social care (and) schools’ data is unaffected, other parts of the systems as well.
“And that’s what we’re investigating just now – what the extent of this incident has been.
“Some of our systems of course, have been shut down by ourselves on a precautionary basis and there will be nothing wrong with them. But we have to be we have to be careful in this environment.”
“We need to know exactly what has happened and what the extent of the incident is. And that will become known in due course.”
Police probing breach
A police spokesperson said: “Officers have received a report of a cyber incident in Stornoway.
“The incident was reported to police on Tuesday, 7 November, 2023. Enquiries are ongoing.”
In a statement the local authority said: “Work is under way to redirect public phone numbers which will allow key services to be contacted.
“We will update the public regularly on the progression of this work and provide details of any further impacts to service delivery.”
Comhairle will ‘update the public regularly’
The Comhairle posted a list of numbers to call to reach social care and social work services.
The council confirmed that their email system is now restored.
They will “update the public regularly” on the situation, they say.
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