The federal agency that provides low-income housing in Indianapolis is facing a ransomware attack that's delayed its ability to send out rent payments to landlords, a top agency official says.
All employees of the Indianapolis Housing Agency lost access to their email during the attack, which began weeks ago. That includes its executive director, Marcia Lewis, who lost access to her email for days but regained access to it Tuesday, The Indianapolis Star reported, citing an email she sent the newspaper.
Lewis said an investigation by information technology security experts, law enforcement, and the agency’s IT service providers is underway, and the attack was still ongoing as of Wednesday.
The housing agency has not released details about the motive or identity of the individuals behind the ransomware attack, which uses malware to lock up a victim organization’s files and leverage the information for a payment.
The attack delayed the Indianapolis Housing Agency’s ability to send out October rent payments to landlords for the federal housing choice voucher program, also known as Section 8, which 8,000 Indianapolis families depend on.
That federal program provides rental assistance to very low-income families, the elderly, and disabled individuals for housing on the private market. The Indianapolis Housing Agency administers the program for Indianapolis.
Lewis said that as Monday the agency successfully made all October rent payments to Section 8 landlords. But in the previous week, staff had to manually send out client utility allowance checks and critical vendor payments because the agency's IT system was down.
Lewis said the agency is on track to complete all November rent payments on time.
“It has been our focus to ensure recipients were not being negatively impacted and that we could bring our systems back to normal,” she wrote in her email.
The housing agency is currently working to address late fees due to the delayed Section 8 payments. Lewis said she does not have an estimate of the total cost of those late fees.
According to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations regarding Section 8, landlords may not evict tenants for nonpayment by the agency, including in the current case.
About 25,000 people depend on the Indianapolis Housing Agency for various housing benefits, either through Section 8 or by living in one of the agency-owned public housing buildings.