I-Team: Challenging Cleveland City Hall on Hopkins Airport computer chaos

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CLEVELAND-Cleveland City Hall now admits some Hopkins Airport computer systems had been infected by ransomware, software that includes a demand for ransom.

Friday, the mayor’s office denied any hacking or ransom demands, so the FOX 8 I-Team is asking hard questions.

At a news conference Monday, Bryan Smith, Assistant Special Agent In Charge, said, "And we have confirmed that there was ransomware that was on the network.”

Last week, the I-Team revealed flight message boards went dark in the terminal, and airport office operations were snarled as email went down and more.

City hall had been working with the FBI all week on the problem, so, Monday, we asked Cleveland IT Director Don Phllips, how did the city claim to not know what was at the root of the problem?

City officials say the FBI just briefed them on the very latest Monday morning.

Phillips said, "There was no ransom that I'm aware of." He added, “We said from the beginning it was malware. We continue to let the FBI take the lead from a scientific perspective."

The FBI confirmed ransomware, but the feds would not talk specifically about any ransom demand.

Cleveland Chief of Communications Valerie McCall said, "There was never an intent to mislead the media.” Still, the I-Team followed up and asked why did the city say last week that there was no ransomware? If you're not sure, why not say you're not sure?

McCall answered, "The very thing we didn't say, you're telling us we should have said it. We were trying to be clear.”

Meantime, shortly after the news conference, a FOX 8 I-Team camera found the airport director and other officials asking a city council committee for emergency funding. City hall wants to spend about three-quarters of a million dollars on new equipment and a consultant to help beef up airport computer security.

The committee approved it.

The message boards are back up and running. But as of Monday afternoon, some city email accounts were not yet.

But through it all, flight operations have not been affected.

Nonetheless, don’t count on the city paying any ransom.

In fact, the FBI also recommends never paying ransom in these cases.

The FBI is leading the investigation to find out who’s to blame in this case, but it likely won’t be easy. The feds recently convicted three men from overseas in a computer case, and that process took twelve years.

**Continuing coverage**

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