INDIANAPOLIS — Public housing residents, Section 8 tenants, landlords and vendors all fear the loss of sensitive personal and financial information and discontinued funding or support as a result of the hack of the Indianapolis Housing Agency’s information system last week by cyber thieves.
And they tell us they’re not getting any answers from IHA.
“Good afternoon,” one viewer wrote. “Can someone please cover or give us information about the IHA issue… I been calling they line for days and all it does is ring like they ignoring the community. My landlord been asking when will they get they payment or if I have any updates and I don’t I am not the only one dealing with this issue and no one is saying anything. The news haven’t said anything… IHA haven’t said anything some people are looking at eviction because the landlord does not know what is going on and I already got a notice this is a serious issue for individuals like me with children.”
FOX59 News broke the story of the cyber assault on the agency’s server last Thursday which forced IHA to issue a short statement that, while acknowledging the breach, said little more and certainly offered no advice to residents and others whose personal information may have been compromised or was potentially already for sale on the Dark Web.
Today, residents, tenants and landlords tell us they are still in the dark.
”Until this very moment, IHA has not sent out one notice, one flier, advising any of their properties or residents of this issue at hand,” said Bonita Davis, a former member of the IHA Board of Commissioners and a resident of Barton Tower.
”I’m very upset because they didn’t tell us. If they told us, we could do something about it,” said neighbor Mary Chapman. “Someone has all our information, they can go get ID in our names.”
”You can put a note on our door about this and that but now this is bigger than that and we didn’t receive no notes and didn’t tell us anything and I guess they was trying to keep it to they self, they didn’t want us to know and that’s a shame,” said Mabel Wilson, who has lived at Barton Tower for three years.
At IHA headquarters at 1919 North Meridian Street, a steady stream of Section 8 landlords, tenants and vendors walked into the building with questions and left frustrated without answers.
”I came down to find out about my payments. I’m a landlord,” said Tracey Sledge, who leases out a pair of doubles on North College Avenue to Section 8 tenants whose rents are guaranteed by IHA. ”Actually I was watching the news and found out that they had a cyberattack and because I didn’t receive a payment, I decided to come down here today.
“They just pretty much told me they had an attack and that’s the reason why I didn’t get paid.”
It was only after FOX59 News made its second round of inquiries starting this morning that IHA Interim Executive Director Marcia Lewis responded that the agency had hired an outside “Crisis Communications Team” and, “Per Counsel, I’m also not allowed to speak without them being present.”
”I think that is ridiculous,” said Chapman. “You can do that but you can’t print out fliers to put on everyone’s door to let people know that their credit, their name, has been compromised? It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
”So they can afford PR people and Marcia Lewis can afford a vehicle but you can’t report the news?” said Davis. ”No one’s being held accountable. What we need to start doing right now, somebody needs to start following the money trail because there is a money trail here. I do not believe that this all of a sudden this hack just happened to happen when all of these moneys are coming to housing. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence.”
Davis was referring to a deal being engineered by Lewis to sell a pair of prime IHA-owned properties on Massachusetts Avenue to raise $14.5 million for the cash-strapped agency that is supposedly on the verge of not making payroll at the end of every month after years of alleged mismanagement.
”They’re pretending to ignore us again,” Davis said. “We been dealing with this ever since the pandemic. We’ve been dealing with this for months now. We still have no staff or lack of staff and no one’s being held accountable.”
”There’s so much going on here, we don’t have no heat, we don’t have no hot water, can’t get maintenance to fix nothing,” said Wilson. “People got mold in their apartments. There’s a whole bunch of issues here that are not being addressed.”
Whether the hack, its cause, the perpetrators and a potential solution and ransom are being addressed is anybody’s guess.
”I can’t comment quite yet on whether we know who the cyber thieves are, but I know we’re standing up some additional staffing, including communications, so you might be able to ask them directly what the status of the investigation is,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett, clearly attempting to distance his office from IHA’s disaster.
One IU Kelley Business School analyst told FOX59 News that the average cost to recover from a cyberattack is $4.4 million.
”I don’t know ultimately what the figure will be,” said Hogsett. ”We’re gonna be working with them when we know a little bit more about what the overall cost is gonna be and who the perpetrators are.”
IHA admits it discovered the intrusion on October 3 but did not issue a public statement until October 6, spurred by our reporting.
Hogsett was asked if Section 8 residents could face eviction due to IHA’s failure to pay landlords or disconnection of utilities because of the Agency’s failure to cover those bills.
”We’ll certainly monitor the situation very closely until we know exactly what is going to be taking place I have to defer to the people at IHA and I’ll be happy to call up there and ask those same questions.”
Late this afternoon, IHA’s outside communications specialist issued a statement regarding the impact on landlords seeking payments the agency is contractually obligated to.
“IHA is working with our bank, Housing and Urban Development, and utility companies to ensure all payments are made. We are also working on processing all landlord payments as well.”
There was no mention of advice to tenants and residents fearing their personal and financial information was stolen.
”Right now I’m gonna go talk to my tenants and let them know what’s going on and make sure they haven’t been notified and find out a solution,” said Sledge.
I told the landlord I would try to find the answers her public housing partners were refusing to provide.
”Well, hopefully you’ll be able to help us with that because they didn’t tell me anything and now we have to figure out if our bank accounts have been compromised,” she said. ”Pretty sad. We should be doing better and someone else should be looking into this as well.”