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While 'closed to the public,' work is getting done inside Cleveland City Hall following ransomware attack

Cleveland City Hall to remain closed Tuesday
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Posted at 4:31 PM, Jun 17, 2024

CLEVELAND — Cleveland city employees continue to deal with issues surrounding a ransomware attack that occurred more than a week ago.

Since then, residents have been unable to do business inside while it specialists work to restore their systems.

Right now, city hall is closed to the public and will continue to be closed Tuesday.

However, News 5 spent the morning seeing work still being done inside.

A Board of Zoning Appeals meeting was still held, albeit in person only.

It's a meeting that Joseph Wente needed to happen. He’s trying to open a new tattoo studio, Psycho Ink Studio, on St. Clair Avenue soon but ran into a zoning issue.

His hearing was scheduled for Monday, but after much of city hall went down and closed from a ransomware attack last week, his mind started to spiral at the thought of being forced to postpone opening his shop until at least July.

RELATED: City Hall 'cyber incident' identified as ransomware attack

"Loss of more money putting in, a lot goes through my head at that time, especially when you’re trying to get up and running to build a business," he said.

In his case, the meeting went his way, getting the green light from the city to move forward.

"It meant everything today," he smiled.

What work looks like right now inside city hall

If you ask Cleveland Director of Public Health Dr. Dave Margolius, who oversees the city’s health department, getting work has never been harder. Well, almost never.

"It feels like March 2020 in that we’re scrambling around, creating new workflows, working 20 hour days," Margolius said. "Without the fear of imminent death of course. It’s been really hard."

The biggest issue for his department is birth certificates.

Without reliable internet and in-person services closed, that means going back to pen and paper and forcing people to either request birth certificates online through the state or send Clevelanders to Lakewood or Parma city halls.

"We’ve been working hard to restore functions one website at a time," he said.

A waiting game forcing departments to step back in time in order to get anything done.

And for Margolius, this should serve as a reminder to others.

"Beef up your cybersecurity but also practice for the moment your internet will go down and see what you can do because this time may come for everybody," he said.

On Friday, Mayor Justin Bibb's administration said in a statement:

Following a weeklong investigation led by the City’s IT Department with support from external cybersecurity experts, including the FBI and the Ohio National Guard’s Cyber Reserve Unit, the cyber incident that disrupted the City of Cleveland’s IT systems has been confirmed as a ransomware attack.

The nature of the attack is still under investigation while we work to restore and recover our systems. At this time, we cannot disclose anything further. While the threat has been identified and contained, this continues to be a sensitive and ongoing matter.

Over the last six months, attacks of this type have increased by 50+ percent, a stark reality that no organization is immune to the costs and consequences of operating in the digital world.

We continue to take this matter very seriously and are working diligently to assess the full extent of the attack on our systems. We have taken immediate steps to validate our cybersecurity measures and are working to fully restore our systems as quickly as possible.

For Monday, June 17, 2024, City Hall will remain closed to the public. Despite the temporary closure of City Hall, essential city services, including waste collection, recreation centers, operations at the airport, Cleveland Public Power, Water and Water Pollution Control, are functioning and operating normally to ensure the continued well-being and safety of our residents.

Residents who are requesting birth or death certificates are encouraged to submit applications online ... through the Ohio Department of Health. If residents prefer to request a copy in person, Parma and Lakewood city halls can assist with birth certificates for births that occurred in Ohio.

We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of the community during this critical period as we work to fully restore operations and safeguard the integrity of our digital systems.

This statement was edited slightly to remove a link that was not working correctly. The edit is indicated with the ellipsis.