“Cyber incident” impacting transactions – c. 80 firms affected

A reported “cyber incident” is affecting around 80 firms up and down the country and preventing transactions moving forward. The outage legal sector specialist infrastructure service provider CTS is preventing firms from accessing systems and risks bringing exchanges and completions to a standstill.

The issue has been brought to the attention of Today’s Conveyancer by affected home movers, some of whom had hoped to exchange and complete this week and has been independently verified by a number of firms affected.

In a statement released this evening (23rd November) CTS has confirmed they have been the subject of a “cyber incident” and are working to restore systems “as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson said:

“We can confirm that we are currently experiencing operational disruption to some of our services. We are working with a global leader in cyber forensics who is investigating the matter. The investigation is at a very early stage but they have confirmed this disruption has been caused by a cyber incident which has impacted a certain portion of our systems. We are in contact with those clients whose services have been disrupted and are keeping them updated as the team works to restore our systems as soon as possible.”

Today’s Conveyancer has spoken to a number of affected firms who have advised that the impact has been felt differently by different firms, depending on how much of their systems are cloud-based.

It has been reported that up to 200 firms could have been affected but the likelihood is that it is much closer to around 80, said one firm who is a client of CTS.

“Depending on your cloud dependency you may, like us, still be able to find workarounds for matters exchanging and completing this week. Other firms have been more affected and are unable to access phone, emails, or case management systems. As a result some transactions are still going ahead today.”

One affected conveyancing firm has confirmed they have received some assurances indicating “encouraging progress with forensic experts and engineers actively resolving the issue.”

Adding

“There is no evidence to suggest that any data integrity has been compromised, and we will not be bringing our systems back online until we have all the assurances that it is safe to do so. Separately, we have also brought in external expertise to ensure the safety and security of our systems and data.”

The “cyber incident” brings back memories of the issues faced by Simplify 2 years ago, which rendered many of their systems inoperable. Sentiment amongst the conveyancing community at the time was supportive of the issues faced by the company which, it was widely acknowledged, could have happened to anybody.

Comments on this article are now closed.

72 Responses

  1. Surely there has to be some compensation or exception to buyers that will most likely lose agreements and fixed rate terms.

  2. My son and partner have been directly affected by this and have not been able to complete on their first time purchase. What should have been a happy occasion has been instead filled with fractic phone calls, emails and stress – with no conclusion in sight currently

  3. This isn’t a great situation for anyone. Those in the conveyancing world are just as stressed as clients. None of us wanted this and despite high levels of security this could happen to anyone.

    Please could everyone be patient, understanding and kind. We’re all in this together.

    1. Clear updates need to be provided. CTS is the 3rd party that has been attacked. According to CTS on twitter, they are providing updates and timescales direct to their clients (conveyancers) – this info needs to be provided to buyers/sellers who are impacted. When I have called our conveyancer they simply say they have no information… Conveyancers should be ensuring that the 3rd parties they use have the aduaquate business continuity plans, disaster recovery plans and cyber defence in place! The industry should learn from the events of two years ago with simplify! Better regulation is requited!

      1. Unfortunately CTS are providing variable updates to each of their many clients which this continues to impact. Some firms are being given clearer/more comprehensive updates than others and certainly no timeframes are being offered by the provider at all. We have been told that progress is being made – and this does not in our firm at least impact our own data/client data/accounts – so our firm priority presently is solely to continue to keep clients data safe and financial integrity in tact. This is a very stressful situation for clients and conveyancers alike – as many of the comments have been – please be understanding of this unprecedented situation

      2. The emails we are getting are over three pages long but are actually pretty light on information and are usually ended with the sentiment “we are sorry but we don’t know when things will start working again” – there really is very little to tell clients at the moment.

        Even if the firm you’re a client of gave you the technical details, what use would they be to you?

  4. Same here, first time buyer, no positive news yet. I agree with Kellie’s comment. There should be compensation or an exception for the buyer who will have their contract broken because of this.

    1. Last update: my seller’s solicitors have just served a notice of failed completion! so much for being nice to each other etc.

  5. Wondering just how many transactions won’t be happening tomorrow. Still no sign of systems being back online. Cts must have their work cut out especially considering how high profile some of the affected clients are

  6. After a terrible conveyancing process, we were due to complete today, in a chain of 3 properties. We had a call at 10am to say the system was down. Our removals company had already left with all our belongings. Presumably our seller and the top of the chain had also packed and left or in the process of doing so.

    At 4pm the removals company returned, and unpacked everything back into our old house, with no indication when the system can get back up so completion can proceed.

    It’s stunning that there is no backup plan for a situation like this.

  7. This ongoing “cyber incident” is having major real world impact on borrowers, lenders, home movers, developers and the like.
    Where is the back-up for when events such as these arise, when so much is dependent upon conveyancers being able to do their job?

    1. Its not one piece of software – the attack was against the company that provides/hosts the entire IT infrastructure for a number of Law Firms.

  8. How long did the cyber attack in 2021 take to fix? I was literally due to exchange and come plate in the next few days! When will this get fixed it’s been like this since Tuesday!

  9. This isn’t just software impacted it’s the whole system down for many of these companies. Which will be everything ranging from case management, file servers, client portals, integration systems with 3rd parties and banks etc. I’m suprised it’s not been on bbc yet as it’s unlikely any people affected will be moving for potentially days.

  10. Conveyancers need to keep their clients updated! Conveyancers are receiving updates from CTS (the impacted 3rd party) according to their twitter – they need to be providing these updates to their clients other than ‘we don’t know anything’. Solicitors should also be ensuring that they (and the 3rd parties they use) have appropriate disaster recovery plans, business continuity plans and cyber defenses in place. It was only two year ago, simplify had similar issues. The industry needs to learn and be better regulated! We now cannot complete and have mortgage offers due to expire! This can be avoided by property investing in cyber security and planning!

    1. Part of the issue is that the Conveyancing firms affected will not be able to access their systems to see who their clients are, or what their phone no/email address is.

  11. Whilst we are receiving updates from CTS they are only to confirm that they are doing everything possible to resolve the issue. Sadly timescales are unknown and conveyancers don’t have a crystal ball. We want the issue resolved as quickly as clients do. Those who have exchanged and failed to complete will be entitled to compensation under the Standard Conditions of Sale. Please be kind.

  12. Is there a crime number for this cyber crime please? All crimes of this type should be reported to the police. Just wondering if the bank will help with lost moving fees as they were lost through crime.

  13. It would be really helpful if the firms that are affected could be named so those firms not affected can manage their own client’s interests

  14. It might be helpful if the affected firms let any firm on either side of a transaction know (if possible) so that the ripple effect can be better controlled/minimised.

  15. People please be kind; having worked through the 2021 incident, it’s a stressful situation for all involved. Admittedly, the clients have every right to be frustrated and worried, but please be mindful that conveyancers don’t always have a new update, or they might not even be able to access contact information to give you that update you would like? This could happen to any firm, not just those in the Conveyancing industry; so please be patient and try to be supportive…

  16. Any updates on the problem? I don’t have a Twitter/X account so I can’t check their feed. After a very protracted sales process due to the hopeless nature of freeholders, building management companies and shared ownership companies we’re nearly about to exchange but the buyer’s mortgage offer ends in 6 days. You can bet your life the bank won’t extend the offer due to this issue.

  17. Does anyone have more detail on who CTS are? Full name or Twitter name?

    We were supposed to complete on Wednesday but the funds are stuck with the solicitor who are unable to transfer to the sellers solicitor so the whole chain is in limbo now.

    1. I am in the exact same boat! Hopefully will be sorted for a completion next week instead. the amount of stress this causes is unreal

  18. What a mess, hopefully, I will be in my new house for the New Year! For a company whose website talks about being Cyber Security experts and Disaster Recovery Specialists this does not seem the case. I also feel for the conveyancing clients who are probably paying fortunes for a lacklustre and not fit-for-purpose service, it certainly seems like some huge breaches of contract for the conveyancers currently hosted. This should be on national news, a huge outrage and unbelievable that there isn’t a contingency plan.

  19. The firm I work for are one of the 200 companies affected so I can only comment on our experience so far. We could not send out payments on Wednesday but the management to their credit worked very hard and we were able to process completions again from yesterday morning. Money payments are taking a fair bit longer as they are having to be processed manually but they are being done.

    I feared the worst when news of the problem broke out on Wednesday and we weren’t back on by the afternoon but a lot of work has been put in to minimise the impact on clients. We have been told to hold off on exchanging contracts for the time being and are told it is hoped we will be back on the system after the weekend. We will have to see about that as we are dependent on third parties.

    Based on what I have seen so far this should not be another Simplify although inevitably it will cause some additional stress and disruption and obviously has done from some of the comments on here already.

  20. All packed-up and ready to go, with our buyers removal vans at our house… then all cancelled. Everything loaded back in to the house/ storage. No news today. Disastrous…Stressful. Pets, sleeping on floor etc. The body which regulates these providers need an indemnity scheme/ back-up to guarantee transactions in these types of incidents.

  21. I’m in an affected firm. Despite their website statement CTS are providing minimal information which means we have little to tell clients. I am spending my time on the phone apologising to everyone but there’s currently no visibility on when this will end.

  22. These firms MUST have a plan B. No excuse. If they cannot come up with a sensible solution and plan B immediately they should be reprimanded severely. There is no excuse in this day and age. I thoroughly expect their files to be backed up and paper copies made available to ensure no loss of movement in chains.

  23. We need immediate up front information from the companies affected and a plan B. The companies affected are large and have a massive turnover. There is NO EXCUSE for no keeping anyone updated.

  24. The situation is disheartening—a moment that should have been a highlight has turned into one filled with concern and uncertainty. It’s been four days since it occurred on Tuesday, and the lack of clarification on what exactly happened and the timeline is disappointing. I’m considering making a formal complaint. Do you know who I should address this to?

  25. We had our exchange and completion happening yesterday and are now waiting on our solicitors to confirm whether the process will be completed.
    What I am having a hard time digesting are 2 things –
    1. With everything that’s happening, at the end of the day, it’s the intermediaries that end up not losing anything. Be it Simplify or CTS, while I appreciate it would have been stressful working on strict timelines, end of the day their contracts protect them from every problem they push down to others. Saw this at GATWICK where the ATS just shrugged their shoulders and said this was a once in a 1M circumstance and same here. End of the day, it’s the 2 parties between whom this is happening that’s impacted the most and they end up taking the share of the financial and emotional distress.
    2. I have a hard time accepting that the system doesn’t have a failsafe. As an IT person myself, you always build a failsafe in case the system did go down. Does this system have no failsafe of any sorts? Or is it that the effort to do this isn’t worth the effort from the conveyancers. It’s probably very manual with a lot of phone calls but end of the day it should still be possible.

    Anyways, that’s my rant for the day. Hopefully the systems get back up and our weekends aren’t screwed up.

    1. I don’t think this cyber incident has anything to do with Simplify – they seem to be only mentioned in the article as they had a similar incident 2 years ago.

  26. Just my luck, I was affected by this in 2021, and my process was delayed by 6/8 weeks. I am now affected by this again, I’m hoping it doesn’t take as long, but who knows! Just very annoyed; twice in two years!

  27. I am told that this has been an issue since Wednesday afternoon. No official word from the firms affected nor from the SRA. This has hints of the calamitous ways that the previous attack 2 years ago was dealt with. The only way this has come out is because the fee earners are providing us with sporadic information, probably because they do not know what is going on themselves. This makes the whole law profession look untrustworthy and dreadful.

  28. My folks have been affected by this due to the first buyers in their chain. Terrified of losing their large removals deposit, they’ve emptied their house and everything is in storage. My mother suffers from severe back pain and step father; epilepsy that is aggravated by stress. Theyre looking at having to pay for a hotel until this is resolved, money is very tight already for them, they initiated this move to buy a park home so they could be mortgage free. I’ve offered to put them up at mine but it won’t be adequate considering their health issues. I’m due to have my first baby next Friday and my mum was supposed to be my birthing partner. This whole situation is terrifying and I’m so scared for them. Worse still; solicitors have said they have a clause in the contract which means they can’t claim any compensation. Does anybody have any advice for this utterly awful situation???

    1. Seek it from your Conveyancing Firm if they are impacted, they will probably try and recoup the cost either from CTS or their own Insurance.

      If you have exchanged and some other party in the chain did not complete then you probably have a breach of contract claim so you can sue under that. Your action would be against the Buyer/Seller but the Conveyancing firm involved would probably have to step in an settle as it was not their clients fault.

  29. To our colleagues in conveyancing and their clients impacted by the recent cyber security issue affecting CTS. We wish to offer a message of support. We understand the frustration caused by system inaccessibility, leading to delays and uncertainties for those in the process of moving home. We wish all impacted a quick and effective resolution.

  30. We understand that this is not a fault of the law firms affected, and I do feel for them. However, we were due to exchange and complete today on our move, which would be to a new build property. The last we heard last night that all was requested for completion and exchange today so all systems go. Removals have been in, they had almost emptied our house when our solicitors called saying we couldn’t exchange today so can’t complete either. They said if we had exchange they could have still completed today but the issue was the exchange side that they couldn’t access on the system. No other information, just estimating next Thursday or Friday now. It was from our builders that we got more information and what they gave pencilled in from our solicitors. For us it has meant that we have lost a day’s flex/annual leave for today, meant our stuff on removals have now gone to storage (cheapest option then paying out removals again) and literally living with the bare basics on our home with a three year old playing camping for the foreseeable future on a mattress each on the floor. Our Daughter doesn’t even have her toys and books! Thankfully we have got clothes and white goods, so can live, but others may not have had that much.
    It can’t be helped, but I think more communication from solicitors to their clients is needed. If they can communicate with other solicitors, estate agents and builders then they can communicate with the client who are actually paying for their services more too rather than the client finding out from elsewhere.

  31. We were due to exchange and complete today as well, but with everything going on we don’t even know when that might be. Our solicitors aren’t giving us a date, probably because CTS aren’t giving them any timelines. I understand how horrible this must be for them as well, however I find it hard to believe that there’s absolutely no contingency. How can law firms who have sensitive information from clients, and their money, not have a plan B? It’s utterly ridiculous. Also for something to not be fixed 4 days later, it’s an absolute attrocity. I’m so frustrated and anxious about this whole situation.

    1. Problems are: a) These systems are very expensive to run. It is nigh on impossible to run to completely different system as a back up b) To export the back up data into a new system again has huge time and cost implications c) With everything being computerised the only way out of this mess is to use paper accountant ledgers which is not possible in this modern day and age d) Client and mortgage money are sacred. If there is any doubt at all as to what is in the firms client bank account and whom it belongs to it cannot be used e) The problem two years ago was a hack and ransom demands. I am not saying this is the problem this time but you tend to be in the hands of the police/security experts.

      I am hugely frustrated and sympathetic to all plights including, selfishly, myself, a conveyancer. It is incredibly hard trying to manage clients expectations when the communication is so poor.

      This whole industry needs to wake up to this much quicker and much better. The firms involved must put out a press release as must the SRA. The silence is deafening.

  32. Also supposed to complete today. Have to move out of my current accommodation this weekend. Lots of furniture ordered to arrive over the next few days. O’Neill Patient have been useless, no communication and no plan B. Really worrying

    1. I am also with O’Neill Patient and should have completed on Wednesday but am now in limbo waiting for new on when they can pay our funds to our seller who are waiting for it to complete on their next house. I can understand that our case manager is in a difficult position of not knowing what is going on and when the issue will be resolved as that is all with CTS but you would have thought contingency plans would have been devised starting with the No1 priority – Completions! These are the part of the process that are the most time-critical.

    2. We are in a similar situation with O’Neill Patient. Should have completed yesterday. Our lease and mortgage offer will both expire soon. Also have a toddler and a cat which makes temporary accommodation tricky.

    3. I am with ONP too, absolutely useless! have made a stressful situation even worse.
      We ere due to exchange this week but everything has gone on hold and chain very jittery.

  33. it must be very upsetting for any buyer missing their purchase today but we must remember that anybody hit with a security issue does not do it on purpose, there is no intent to disrupt except on the behalf of the attackers. The conveyanmcers are at no fault, they are desperatly wanting to do whats best for their customers. Lets not blame the firms wanting the best for their customers, remember they are probably spending huge amounts on security experts on trying to resolve the security attck in the first place.

  34. All the press seems to say that this happened yesterday, but in fact it started on Wednesday (21st November) and I’ve been waiting since then to complete on my sale and purchase, which is in a different country, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen today either. Looking forward to my weekend, NOT!!!

  35. Very stressful indeed. Worrying that no timescale as to when will be sorted either. Should be celebrating this weekend not stressing!

  36. Communication has been so poor from the solicitors.
    Supposed to exchange today with completion Wednesday. I can’t imagine anyone will provide updates over the weekend so they just expect us to wait and see what happens on Monday

  37. There is clearly a reason why little information has been disclosed. As we are all aware this a cyber incident and therefore a criminal offence. Any updates will be on a need to know basis whilst the matter is dealt with.

  38. No matter the explanations above, this situation is unacceptable – however quickly this issue is fixed, hundreds/thousands of people will be affected during the outage period.

    I understand that individual Solicitors and Conveyancers are not to blame and I am sympathetic to the stress and situation they find themselves in, caused by poor leadership and system/technology decisions.

    Personally, I am waiting on O’Neill Patient to assist in completing a remortgage, so by no means the worst situation I have heard today. However, there has been zero communication from OP or CTS.
    A press release should have been provided and all clients contacted (especially those close to completion) with a plan of action.

    After calling OP they explained that they have no access to their databases and client files, which is a staggering oversight.
    Having a single point of failure like this, with no contingency is mind boggling, especially given what happened with Simplify a couple of years ago – another UK sector demonstrating a need for more hand holding and regulation when it comes to technology and data.

    Locally stored, regularly updated, secure, databases should be standard on top of Cloud services – if only contact information and non-financial client details are stored (completion dates, status etc), so much of this would be avoidable. Abundant options out there.

    I will be following up with the Legal Ombudsmen and CLC with regards to this repeat failure within the sector and I advise anyone negatively affected by this situation, especially financially, look into legal options as customers should not bear the brunt of these poor decisions and practices.

    1. Yes the situation is unacceptable however everyone does back up everyday. But that back up is designed to run in a specific system. If that system is compromised you cannot run it. I don’t know the answer but there is now so much data, local storage is not an option. It would be marvellous if the back up could be plugged into another system but I’m sure that there is not as easy as it sounds. Not to mention the costs of maintaining a back up system will be unaffordable to most firms. I’m not pulling up excuses but this is something the SRA/CLC need to give a serious thought to (they haven’t even commented so far as far as I am aware). We are all meant to have plan Bs and we do. But when problems like this happen, no plan b will rescue it. We can cope with fires floods break ins and sudden staff absences. The loss of systems takes it to an entirely different level

    2. I’m also with ONP and the level of communication (or lack thereof) has been shocking. I had to find out about the issue from my sales progressor the day before we were meant to be exchanging and completing. How is that acceptable?

      Also, I completely understand how time consuming and complex it is to have plans in place in case things go wrong, especially for things they can’t predict will happen. However, 1) this has happened before, and 2) there is evidence here in these comments that conveyancers have been able to manually exchange and complete, therefore how come firms, like ONP, do not have the same process in place so their priority clients are not severely impacted like we are now? There should be a standardised process for the whole sector, together with policies on compensation for clients who have been financially affected by this.

      I too will be looking into this matter with the SRA.

  39. As a conveyancer, IT systems are built to try and detect any possible cyber attacks, but as everyone will know from the countless articles in the news, cyber attacks happens all the time and around the world. Criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated in their approaches and it is sometimes an impossible task to keep up with those. Most firms dealing with finance have attempts on a daily basis which are intercepted. If solicitor and conveyancing firms are expected to do more or compensate clients when an event like this occurs, those costs are going to have to be passed on, which will ultimately result in an increase of fees to clients. There is no guarantee that a banks system will not go down etc. The world is now electronic, gone are the days of old school conveyancing face to face with a briefcase of bank notes, but this opens the door to a multitude of situations that can be out of a conveyancers control. Whilst this is of course a stressful situation to buyers and sellers, it is also the same for the conveyancers. We want to get clients moved as quickly as possible. Please be kind and patient – it is not your conveyancers fault

  40. We were due to complete today with Taylor rose. Our sale went through at 4.30pm but our purchase did not happen before the 5pm home-time deadline.

    Our belongings are now being unloaded into storage and we are being charged £1500 for storage and unloading. We are now homeless with small children and will have to live in a hotel until we can complete. Meanwhile our sellers are asking us for money they will now owe to because we have delayed completion.

    We have not been given any guidance on who is liable for these costs. Communication has been absolutely terrible. The conveyancers who pick up the phone have been given no information to give to their customers.

    Feeling very unsettled.

  41. I am at an affected firm. We have email and phones and I have completed a matter yesterday and today 1 sale and 1 purchase. I’ve kept clients up to date and our firm have been super amazing in putting contingencies into place. Hopefully this will be over asap. I’ve received great co-operation from counterparts. We are doing our absolute best. Rest assured

  42. I’ve read that this incident has been reported to the ICO which means a data breach… Nothing to indicate magnitude yet. But ensure you’re watching your credit files and bank accounts, as well as being more vigilant for dodgy emails. Think of how much personal data these systems hold. We were hacked off not being able to exchange today, but reading above we feel lucky. Fingers crossed and best of luck to those in limbo.

  43. My conveyancer said nothing about this in his email to me this morning. The person I am buying from is in the terminal stages of an illness. The person needs the money to pay for their care. This is horrific.

  44. I think the problem is with monopoly, it is ridiculous that one company like CTS is serving more than 200 solicitor firms. If we had multiple companies serving the solicitors instead of one company that would have meant more work for the hackers and lesser affected clientele. Having data locally is impractical in today’s age so we actually cannot do away with companies like CTS. These attacks would have been more frequently successful without the service of these companies, but if we have only one such company then it becomes a point of failure. what is additionally needed is more training in cyber security and data protection for all to minimize such outages in the future. i just hope they can get service back soon so that the buyers and sellers don’t suffer anymore.

  45. Has anyone got systems back online yet? Think its safe to say there is a reason why a lot of people are opting to use public cloud or their own datacentre servers with dr to another public cloud. Having all eggs in one basket with CTS for live systems, backup and dr means that I imagine most have no option to do anything until they resolve. Goes to show you should presume that every company will be compromised and build this into the business continuity plan. But just remember these things cost a lot so it’s only going to be the big ones who can afford.

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