Leicester City Council services disrupted as authority becomes latest to be hit by cyber attack

Leicester town hall, home of Leicester City Council, pictured at night time.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Leicester City Council says it will take days before it can restore IT systems and phone lines after falling victim to a cyber attack.

The council was hit last Thursday by an unspecified incident that's caused disruption to its services, and has since been working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to investigate.

"Over the weekend we have continued to work with our cyber security and law enforcement partners, as well as learning from other councils who have had attacks, to identify the nature of the incident and the steps we need to take to get our systems back online," said Richard Sword, the council’s strategic director of city developments and neighborhoods.

"We expect that it will take until at least the middle of the week before we will be able to start the recovery process, beginning with our most critical services."

In the meantime, he said, council officers are working to keep frontline services operating with as little disruption as possible, and extra phone lines have been set up for anybody needing urgent assistance.

Leicester City Council isn't alone

The incident marks the latest in a string of cyber attacks targeting councils across the country.

In January, services at three Kent councils were severely disrupted by cyber attacks. Similarly, Kent County Council’s children’s department fell victim to a phishing attack last year when an officer clicked on a link from an email to reset their password

Gloucester City Council was also hit by a cyber attack which cost it more than £1 million to recover.

An uptick in attacks against UK public services has prompted criticism of the government’s handling of national cyber security. 

This week, the UK's Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy (JCNSS) warned of an increase in cyber security-related incidents, claiming that a recent government report did nothing to address the problem.

"The committee has heard worrying evidence of exactly how unprepared and unsupported UK local authorities are in facing cyber attacks that could cripple or temporarily cease essential local services - and that the government is fully cognizant of this," said committee chair Dame Margaret Beckett.

"But there is nothing in the response to address or assuage those concerns, there is no offer to counter the lack of resourcing and skills at local level; no offer of enhanced help for the responsible authorities or the populations that would be affected."

Last year, research from software provider TechnologyOne found that six-in-ten senior leaders at UK councils said they had an outdated approach to cyber security, but that they couldn't afford the cost of a security breach.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.