A single email could be enough to bring down Redbridge Council’s whole IT system, according to a senior council officer.

At a people scrutiny committee on Monday, October 19, councillors discussed the danger posed by a “serious” cyber attack like the one that hit Hackney Council on October 13.

More than a week later, Hackney residents are still unable to pay rent or council tax, access housing benefit payments, apply to the housing list or report noise complaints.

An attack against Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council in February, after which it took weeks for services to come back online, is estimated to have cost the authority more than £10 million.

'You can’t legislate what someone might click on'

Committee chairman Cllr Paul Merry (Lab, Wanstead Park) asked for “reassurance” from officers given Redbridge Council is “at this stage very IT dependent”.

Corporate director of resources Maria Christofi responded: “It can be something as simple as one email with one link in it that can cause the whole system to go down.

“We are constantly messaging staff so they understand what an attack could look like, what a suspicious email could look like and what they should do if they are unsure.

“You can’t legislate what someone might click on, you need to be there to mitigate the damage should it happen.

“What’s important is to ensure that our back-ups are secure and it depends how sophisticated the attack is.”

Cllr Helen Coomb (Lab, Clementswood) noted that it was not only staff but also councillors who have “got to be vigilant” to the threat of a cyber-attack.

The council’s “cyber security strategy” for the next financial year is currently in development.

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