LYNN — Residents have been unable to pay their parking tickets online for more than two weeks after a virus shut down the city’s virtual ticketing system.
Robert Stilian, the city’s acting parking director, said the virus was discovered two weeks ago, which prompted the city to shut down their online payment system, but there had been problems with intermittent outages prompted by the malware a week before it was discovered.
Essentially, that’s left Lynn without a working payment system for approximately three weeks, Stilian said, but he expected service to resume by Tuesday.
The virus, Hermes 1.2, was not on the city’s network, but rather on its contracted parking ticketing system vendor, Velosum, which is linked to the Lynn Parking Department website, according to Stilian, who said no city computers have been impacted. As soon as it was discovered, he told all City Hall employees to get off of the software.
The city will waive late fees for residents unable to pay their parking tickets because of the shutdown. But rather than wait it out, some residents have opted to pay their tickets by phone, mail or come into the parking department office, Stilian said.
“Now, at least we know what the problem is,” Stilian said. “It’s not on our end and it’s nothing the city can get, but it is monumental because it’s caused additional work for my people. There’s a big efficacy from the department and myself. We are killing ourselves to get resolutions right away.”
The effort to discover and eradicate the malware has involved assistance from the FBI, as not only Lynn, but all other municipalities served by Utah-based Velosum have been affected.
The virus, found to be out of India, came with a ransom demand, or payment in exchange for the return of information, but the FBI advised the vendor not to pay it, according to Stilian.
Stilian said in November when residents were also unable to pay their parking tickets online for several weeks that the city was transitioning away from Velosum to a new system operated by another vendor, IPS Group, in an effort to get better service. He attributed the problem with online payments to the transition that was underway.
But Stilian said the city ultimately opted against switching to IPS following a trial period. He doesn’t blame Velosum for the shutdown, as anyone could have been hacked and the company has been responsive in this scenario, but said city officials are still exploring a potential switch to another vendor.
“We’re researching what is out there,” he said. “We have been trying to find the best one for the parking department.”