London

City of Woodstock hit by a cyber attack

The city of Woodstock is trying to recover from a cyber attack that has blocked access to email and most of the files involved in the operation of the municipal government.

Access to email and most city files has been blocked

A cyber attack has cut off email to the City of Woodstock and blocked access to most government files. A city official says it has the appearance of being ransom-ware but, so far, no ransom demand has been made. (CBC)

The City of Woodstock is trying to recover from a cyber attack that has blocked access to email and most of the files involved in the operation of the municipal government.

The first signs of the virus infection occurred early last week, but the extent of the problem wasn't discovered until early Saturday morning, said David Creery, Woodstock's chief administrative officer.

That's when they realized the city wasn't able to receive email, and access to virtually all data on the system was blocked.

No ransom demand

"It's a virus. It has the appearance of being a ransom, but we have not received a ransom demand at this point," said Creery.

The city has brought in outside consultants to execute a three-pronged strategy. The first priority was containment— cutting off connections to the outside to avoid a further spread of the virus.

Now they're moving into the investigative stage, looking at the endpoints and the service points of the network and extracting evidence.

"We need to know why, how, when this entered our system, and those are the questions that we're seeking answers for right now," said Creery.

They especially want to know how the invaders penetrated two layers of malware protection and other features on the network that were designed to impede unwanted access.

The third step is a recovery effort.

No loss of private information

"At this point, we're not exploring ransom. We're looking to recover our systems on our own but we won't discount that option … We have not been contacted but nor have we attempted to contact (the attacker) at this point," said Creery.

He said it's also important to point out that, so far, there's no indication that private information was accessed or transferred in the attack.

Although residents of Woodstock can't send an email to city hall, the city's website is still accessible to the public, because it's hosted externally and is not connected to the city's network.

"So people can still register for booking our recreation facilities or sign-up for recreation programs … And you can still load your dollars on your transit riding cards online."

Most conventional services in Woodstock are also operating normally, including garbage pick-up.

Police service also hit

Creery says it appears the attack on the City of Woodstock's computer system is similar to what occurred to Stratford in April. Officials there revealed last week that they paid a hacker the equivalent of $75,000 in Bitcoin. But Creery stressed that so far, no ransom demand has been issued.

The Woodstock Police Service is also contending with a cyber attack. They say some of their systems were taken offline over the weekend and they're fully investigating what happened. However, they say all of their emergency services remain operational.