City street lights “misbehave” after ransomware attack

The UK’s Leicester City Council was thrown into chaos last month when a crippling cyber attack forced it to shut down its IT systems and phone lines.

The INC Ransom group perpetrated the ransomware attack, which reportedly impacted care home workers and the homeless but also saw at least 1.3 terabytes of stolen data published on the dark web.

But the ransomware attack on Leicester City Council’s infrastructure doesn’t stop there. As local media reports, residents have noticed that some street lights have been constantly shining, 24 hours a day, ever since.

One person complaining was 65-year-old Roger Ewens. He was told by the council that the ransomware attack had affected the city’s “central management system” and had resulted in the street lights “misbehaving”.

“We are aware of a number of street lights that are staying on during the day. This is due to a technical issue connected to the recent cyber attack, when we were forced to shut down our IT systems,” a Leicester City Council spokesperson told the Leicester Mercury. “It means we are currently not able to remotely identify faults in the street lighting system. The default mode for faults is that the lights stay on to ensure that roads are not left completely unlit and become a safety concern. There are a number of steps required to resolve the problem, and we are working through these as quickly as we can.”

It would be tempting to suggest that the cyber attack had sent the council’s systems back to the dark ages… if it wasn’t the case that it couldn’t turn its lights off.

Perhaps it is surprising to some of us that street lights would be centrally controlled at all. Surely all they need to do is turn on when it gets dark and turn on again when the sun rises, something which can easily be managed by having an ambient light sensor?

However, an increasing number of cities are replacing ambient light sensors with wireless controllers. This allows for more flexibility and the ability to turn individual or groups of lights on and off to save power.

Hopefully, Leicester City Council will manage to turn off its lights and continue to recover from all of the impact of its unfortunate ransomware attack in time, and provide support for any individuals and organisations who have been impacted by the data leak.

What we can say with some certainty is that the Inc Ransom group will not be receiving its ransom. Even if the Leicester City Council wanted to pay the ransom (it says it will not),

The City Council says it will not be paying any ransom. Frankly, it’s broke. Even if it wanted to, it couldn’t find the money to pay its extortionists as it was already facing a financial crisis.

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