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Akron mayor addresses ‘hacking’ attack

5/23/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

City offers attorneys’ help regarding cyber attack

AKRON — City of Akron attorneys will be at Akron community centers to talk to residents about what they can do if they are on the list of people whose information was compromised by a recent cyber attack on the city’s website.

These attorneys will be able to look up whether citizens are on the list of people whose information was stolen, and they will be able to explain what a person should do to secure their accounts and credit.

The following community centers in West Akron will have help available May 23-24 from 2 to 8 p.m.:

  • Lawton Street Community Center, 1225 Lawton St.; and
    Patterson Park Community Center, 800 Patterson Ave.

The city also has requested from all three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) that the $5 fee charged by each company for placing a credit freeze on a person’s credit be waived and/or reimbursed. At least one company, Experian, has agreed to waive the fee for Akron victims and reimburse those victims who have already paid the fee, according to city officials. Details on how to go about getting the reimbursement are still being worked out, according to city officials.

Also, the city is anticipating even more calls after thousands of letters were sent out May 21 to victims of the cyber attack, according to city officials. For the remainder of this week, the city is bringing in extra help to answer the large number of 3-1-1 calls it has received and expects to continue. If necessary, extra hours and staffing will continue through the weekend, according to city officials.
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Mayor Don Plusquellic said at the May 20 Akron City Council meeting the city thwarts 100 attempts each day to infiltrate its computer system.

Late last week, one of those attempts was successful, and more than 30,000 individuals face the possibility their sensitive information was compromised.

“We’re doing everything we can,” said the mayor, adding, “This is a terrorist attack in any way, shape and form, and we’re going to treat it that way.”

According to city officials, Turkish hackers gained access to a section of the city’s taxpayer files and posted sensitive taxpayer information to a public website. Plusquellic said at the Council meeting that, contrary to initial reports, those who are affected include more than those who filed tax returns electronically. The website was disabled May 18.

The city is working with the FBI to determine the full scope of the cyber attack, and a police report has been filed to assist taxpayers who were affected. The report, and further details about the hacking incident, can be accessed on the city’s website at www.ci.akron.oh.us.

The city is attempting to contact affected individuals via email, reverse phone alert or letter, but warns that citizens’ information might still have been compromised, even if they didn’t receive notification. To find out whether your information was compromised, call 3-1-1 (330-375-2311 from a mobile phone) or the city’s income tax office at 330-375-2290. Plusquellic said additional staffers were being brought in to handle the volume of phone calls.

The FBI recommends those whose information was released monitor all their financial accounts carefully until more information becomes available. In the meantime, the city provided the following resources to help individuals protect their credit:

  • The Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit in San Diego, offers free victim assistance at 888-400-5530 or online at www.idtheftcenter.org.
  • The Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Identity Theft Unit can assist consumers after they’ve been identity theft victims by helping them straighten out accounts. Also, the office can provide a self-help assistance guide. A police report must be filed. Call 800-282-0515 or go to www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov.
  • Homeowner’s insurance might include identity theft coverage. If not, victims might be able to add that coverage.

Affected individuals can contact one of the credit reporting services and put a freeze on their credit:

√ Equifax: 800-685-1111 (Option 3), Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348 or www.equifax.com;

√ Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742), Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen TX 75013 or www.experian.com; and

√ TransUnion: 888-909-8872, TransUnion, Fraud Victim Assistance Department, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834 or www.transunion.com.

In legislative action at the meeting, Council approved a conditional-use permit for the construction of the Firestone/Litchfield Community Learning Center (CLC). The vote followed public hearings at which no opposition was expressed.

Councilwoman Marilyn Keith (D-Ward 8), whose ward includes the site of the new CLC, said she continues to have concerns about Castle Boulevard, on which the new CLC would front, handling the traffic flow.

“Many of the kids that are driving [to school] are new drivers,” she said.

The $76 million project will include an almost entirely new building, with the existing natatorium and activities center being reconstructed. The new building will be constructed around the existing Firestone High School so that high school students would not need to attend school elsewhere during the construction. The new CLC will be able to accommodate 1,750 students.

Also at the meeting, Council held a public hearing on a conditional-use permit to construct a retail/apartment complex at 795 W. Market St. in Highland Square, the former site of the Von and Crescent apartment buildings.

After several people voiced opposition to and uncertainty regarding the proposed building, Council decided to take time before voting. Planning Committee Chairman Jeff Fusco (D-at large) said an additional meeting with concerned residents will take place May 31, and Council will have another opportunity to discuss the issue at its next meeting.

Resident Rick Hirt said he was concerned about increased noise and crime as a potential result of the new building, which would contain both residential and retail uses. He said he has lived in the same house on Casterton Avenue for 35 years and hopes that steps will be taken to maintain the character of the neighborhood.

Brenda Denefield said she had concerns about a retaining wall and lighting.

Attorney Jay Linnen, who owns the property directly to the east of the site of the proposed building, spoke against the project, saying the building would be oversized on the lot and parking would be inadequate. He said the building would take up 90 percent of the lot, not even allowing room for a sidewalk from the front of the property to the back, and the building would be only 6 feet from the Linnen building.

“It’s going to create a huge nuisance,” he said.

Resident Stephen Brooks, who said he lives on North Highland Avenue behind the site of the proposed building, spoke in favor of the project. He praised the city and petitioner Manuel Nemer for being responsive to neighbors’ concerns regarding noise and safety.

Also at the meeting, Council placed on next week’s consent agenda an ordinance authorizing the annual $60,000 operating subsidy for the All-American Soap Box Derby (AASBD).

Joe Mazur, president and CEO of the organization, said this year’s derby will take place July 27, but efforts are being made to bring additional events to Derby Downs as the AASBD strives for solvency.

“We’re really hitting it hard and bring in as many events as possible,” he said at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting.

Deputy Mayor Rick Merolla, who also is vice chairman of the AASBD board, said at the committee meeting the organization has the goal of becoming self-sufficient and no longer needing the subsidy from the city.

Due to the Memorial Day holiday, Council will not meet May 27. The next meeting will take place June 3 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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