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Carmel city website back online after hacker gained access

UPDATE: Around 9 p.m. Friday, the city of Carmel announced its website was back online, releasing this statement: “The website for the City of Carmel is back online.Changes have been made to avoid a similar disruption in the future. The server that holds the website is not the same server that city uses for its business, so there was never a chance that any city information was breached.We appreciate the patience of the public during this repair process.”

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — As of late Friday afternoon, the city of Carmel’s website remained offline after I-Team 8 was told a hacker gained access to the website early Friday morning.

Users looking for city information found an error message instead on Friday.

Taylor Sabel tried to pay her traffic ticket on the website but kept getting an error message. She tried other websites to make sure her computer was working properly: “I, so, I was like, I don’t like this very much. I’m not going to try again.”

The city sent out an update on the website on Friday afternoon:

The City of Carmel continues to work on its disrupted city website, which remains offline. Our IT professionals are working on making repairs and restoring the website and we hope to have the website back online as soon as possible.

The investigation into how this happened is still ongoing. However, we want to clarify that there was no private information compromised. Carmel’s city website only contains public information. Transactions such as paying a city utility bill are done on third-party websites, which were not impacted by today’s disruption.

City services continued to remain open on Friday and those who needed specific services were asked to call that department or the main line into City Hall.

We will continue to update you as things change.

Dan McFeely, Economic Development & Community Relations, city of Carmel

I-Team 8 asked Scott Shackelford, the chair of Indiana University’s Cybersecurity Program in Bloomington, what possible hacks the city might be facing.

“It is a big deal especially for a city like Carmel that has the expertise, that has the resources, even. It just goes to show that these problems are incredibly widespread and impact a whole range of organizations,” Shackelford said.

The city of Carmel claims that no personal information was compromised, but according to Shackelford, cities and towns are frequent targets of cyberattacks.

“There is such a wide range of cyberincidents that can affect municipalities. Ransomware is certainly a key part to this problem. For example, since 2013, we have had documented cases of at least 170 counties, city or state government that have been hit, with dozens of those in 2019 and that was before the pandemic, before so much of our personal and professional lives were online,” said Shackelford.

He says a more coordinated effort by state or federal agencies that monitor cybersecurity would help stem some of the problems.

The FBI has been contacted and is offering assistance to the city of Carmel. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security is monitoring the situation.

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