ST HELENS Council is investigating a suspected Ransomware cyber attack.

The local authority has confirmed details of the incident in a statement which confirmed its IT systems and networks had been hit.

Cyber security experts are investigating.

The council says some of its internal systems have been affected and described the incident as a "complex and evolving" situation.

Ransomware is a form of cyber attack where criminals break into an organisation’s system and encrypt files, making them inaccessible, and demand a ransom payment in order to release them.

It has been used in a number of high-profile incidents, including the 2017 attack on the NHS.

The council's statement issued this evening read: "We are currently dealing with a suspected Ransomware incident on the councils IT systems and networks. 

"The attack was first identified on Monday, August 21 and we immediately alerted our external cyber security contractor to investigate this issue further.

"We have now put in place a number of security measures to keep our IT networks running safely."

St Helens Council continued: "We are continuing to provide council services via our website. 

"Some internal systems to the council are currently being affected due to the actions we have put in place to prevent any further impact, and whilst a full investigation is undertaken. 

“While we work through this ongoing situation we would recommend that residents are mindful of how to keep themselves safe online and be alert to any communications they may have received from the council.

You can find out more about keeping safe online here

“Please be reassured that together with our cyber security specialists we are working to resolve this incident, but obviously this is a very complex and evolving situation.” 

A further statement on its website, added: "We are urging residents to watch out for online scams and have some helpful tips for what to do if you have been contacted by a scammer.

"You might receive an email, claiming to be from your bank informing you that a new direct debit has been set up.

"The email will look real, and will include links to click on to confirm your details.

"This email is a fake email known as phishing. Criminals use fake messages to get you to click on links in order to get sensitive information such as your bank details.

"You should always question unsolicited calls, texts or emails requesting your personal or financial information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number).

"Instead, contact the company directly using a known email or phone number."