British Columbia

Hackers infiltrate computer systems at B.C. paper mills

Production has been impacted at Paper Excellence Canada facilities in Crofton, Port Alberni and Powell River.

Production has been impacted at 3 Paper Excellence Canada facilities

Employees at the Crofton Mill north of Victoria, B.C., on Vancouver Island are having to use paper production machines in manual mode after the company's computer systems were infiltrated by malware. (Wikipedia)

Production has been impacted at three B.C. mills after the IT systems at Paper Excellence Canada were found to be infiltrated with malware.

The company, headquartered in Richmond, is one of Canada's leading paper and pulp exporters.

Early in the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 19, employees discovered the company's online communications and software systems had been compromised.

"It became apparent pretty quickly that in some form or fashion somebody had managed to infiltrate those systems and corrupt some of the data," said Graham Kissack, vice-president of environment, health and safety and communications at Paper Excellence, on CBC's On The Island Friday.

Kissack said the breach has prevented employees from being able to communicate by email. It also means the software system the company uses for filling paper orders at mills in Crofton, Port Alberni and Powell River is not currently operating.

"If you don't have that, you can't do anything," said Kissack, adding the software that was infected is critical to operations because it communicates to the mill machines how much paper they need to produce and in what dimensions it needs to be cut.

"Our paper mills didn't have the ability to run, because they didn't know what it was that they should be manufacturing," explained Kissack.

Keeping it old school

Kissack said, for now, the company is trying to do what it can by "going back old school" and trying to run the machines in manual mode. Even the fax machine is seeing a renaissance moment while email is down.

Kissack said the company has reached out to its customers to let them know production has been impacted and there is a possibility that certain product deliveries may be delayed while the issue is being resolved.

The software that was compromised also produced the necessary paperwork for orders that have to go through border customs, as well as staff payroll.

According to Kissack, the RCMP are investigating who hacked into the company's systems but for now, the company's number one priority is to try to get back to full production and to protect themselves from any future hackers.

"You don't imagine it will ever happen to you until it happens to you. I'm hoping we can take something away from it and improve," said Kissack.

Paper Excellence operates nine facilities in Canada. The malware incident has been confined to the company's corporate office in B.C.

With files from On The Island

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