The Saint John Development Corporation says it's working to restore an annual report that it lost to a cyber attack in early 2015.

"We lost a lot of our data," said General Manager Kent MacIntyre. "We had some [Saint John] city IT people working with us to try to recover that but in the end, it wasn't recovered."

According to MacIntyre, sensitive information wasn't compromised because it was being stored on city servers at the time.

He said the ransomware infected only the office laptops and he doesn't know why they were hit at all.


General Manager Kent MacIntyre of the Saint John Development Corporation says IT experts weren't able to save the data hit by the ransomware. (CBC)

"Ransomware isn't always a targeted attack," said David Shipley, a member of UNB's cybersecurity team.

Shipley said organized criminals push out emails that contain malicious software that can scramble information, making it inaccessible without a key.

The perpetrators then demand money to restore the information.

Shipley said it must be paying off, because ransomware attacks have become a huge crime wave around the world.

UNB has seen a significant spike in activity.

A million viruses in a month

"In a typical month, we might receive 149,000 emails with malicious attachments or viruses in them," said Shipley. "In March, we saw that number almost jump to a million."

Computer user

UNB's cybersecurity team saw almost a million email attacks this past March. (Andrey Popov/Shutterstock)

Shipley says other universities are seeing the same thing and it's likely happening among businesses of all sizes.

In October of 2014, UNB's student union website and the Saint John Arts Centre website were hacked by a group that claimed to be supporters of the militant group ISIS.

Saint John-based ICS said up to 10 of its customers were hacked by the same group at that time.

The Saint John Arts Centre said its web site was hacked again last week by malware.

Now it's waiting on a new secure site that will be capable of conducting e-commerce.