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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Bob Kolasky on Cleveland ‘Cyber incident’ Causing Disruption to Public Services

Cleveland City Hall was subjected to a cyberattack last week, causing disruption to public services.

  • A suspected ransomware attack has seen Cleveland City Hall closed for 2 days
  • The disruption has made it “hard for people to go to work” says Bob Kolasky
  • Emergency services seem to be unaffected. 

A ‘cyber incident’ has caused major disruption to public services in Cleveland, as City Hall was forced to close last week for two days following a suspected ransomware attack.

Senior Vice President for Critical Infrastructure at Exiger, Bob Kolasky, joined Connell McShane live on NewsNation to discuss the impact of the ‘cyber event’ on critical infrastructure, and how we can better prepare as we head towards elections and the Olympic games. 

Kolasky, a former Assistant Director of the Department of Homeland Security, Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency, said there was “not enough” information on the attack “right now”, but confirms that it “was widespread enough to make a lot of the IT systems not effective,” and make it “hard for people to go to work and the government of Cleveland to support citizens on day to day activity.”

Fortunately, the disruption does not seem to have affected the emergency services, with Kolasky confirming that “emergency services still seem to be available,” adding that “we haven’t seen anything that looks like operational outages that are impacting the healthcare system too significantly in terms of delivering health care.”

Officials in Cleveland say city services are functioning normally, despite limited  capabilities, and teams across the city are actively working for residents as they continue to investigate the incident.

Speaking on the incident, Kolasky, a member of the HSToday Editorial Board, said “it’s not a surprise” that public infrastructure investment in cities like Cleveland “aren’t where they need to be.”

“There is a real race by state and local governments to upgrade their systems.” he continues, adding that this “needs to be funded by state and local governments and their legislatures.”

“The federal government has stepped in to try to assist with grant funding,” Kolasky says, adding that “As you see more and more of these incidents, they build off each other. State and local governments become a target for criminal activity, become a target for ransom gangs.”

Whilst it is believed that a ransomware attack is responsible for the disruption, Kolasky points out that “there’s no reporting that I’ve seen that this is a ransomware incident.” However, he does admit that “we have seen across the state, local infrastructure, a spate of ransomware attempts to make money off of the vulnerabilities that exist in state, local governments.”

When quizzed on cyberattack scenarios that worries him, Kolasky replies “it is a question of criticality.” He mentions the delivery of health and emergency services in particular, adding that “as we get closer to election day” it’s important to ensure that “election infrastructure is hardened and that local elections work effectively.” 

“We know there are going to be vulnerabilities of a certain level in state, local systems, and the elections,” he continues, citing the prioritization of “critical systems where the vulnerabilities need to be closed to keep operational activity from being disrupted for things that are really important” as a critical need.

Before wrapping up, McShane spoke of the Olympics and a Reuters article about Paris 2024 organizers “gearing up to face unprecedented cyber security threats.”

In response, Kolasky said “we’ve seen in the past, actors try to influence the Olympics, and this is something that the government and the Olympic committees know is a priority and are prioritizing against it.” 

“We’ve seen attacks for propaganda purposes. We haven’t yet seen anything that’s had widespread impact on the game […] but it has to be a priority.” he continues.

“It’s not surprising that something with this much public attention is going to be a potential target.” says Kolasky, pointing to the fact that the Olympic committee and the Paris Olympics is “a startup activity” that has to “build the structures in place, get the information and make the investments to maintain their systems.” Work that Kolaski says is happening.

Watch the interview here.

author avatar
Rob Phillimore
An ambitious and enthusiastic weaver of words with a curious mind and passion for continued learning and development, Rob has written content for a diverse range of clients, working in STEM sectors such as space, aerospace, aviation, finance and software development; covering a variety of topics, from AI and cybersecurity to digital transformation to sustainability.
Rob Phillimore
Rob Phillimore
An ambitious and enthusiastic weaver of words with a curious mind and passion for continued learning and development, Rob has written content for a diverse range of clients, working in STEM sectors such as space, aerospace, aviation, finance and software development; covering a variety of topics, from AI and cybersecurity to digital transformation to sustainability.

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