Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay businesses not immune to cyberattacks, local entrepreneur warns

A Thunder Bay business owner is sharing his story to raise awareness about the danger of cyberattacks.

Head of Jones & Associates Insurance to speak at cybersecurity awareness breakfast Wednesday

Organizers of a cybersecurity event taking place in Thunder Bay, Ont. say cyberattacks are a growing concern for local businesses. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Jeff Jones remembers the day he got the call about a ransomware attack at his business.

"It was a cryptovirus," he said. "I got a phone call from one of my staff members, to come in because we [couldn't] access any of our files."

There was "a little bit of panic," he said, as they got to work addressing what turned out to be a time-consuming and costly random attack. 

Jones, the president of Jones & Associates Insurance in Thunder Bay, Ont., said he wanted to share his story to raise awareness about the dangers of cyber attacks for businesses.

He'll speak at a cybersecurity awareness breakfast for businesses in the city taking place on Wednesday morning, organized by the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre, along with several partners. 

The attack his company suffered was not a security breach, he said, and no information got out, but hackers were demanding a ransom to allow them to de-encrypt files.  

"So we called our insurance company and they immediately sent us over to a cybersecurity team ... and it was ... all guns blazing at that point," he said, explaining that the situation was resolved, and the company's systems were upgraded as a precaution.

Cyberattacks 'can happen to everyone'

Examples like that should serve as a "wake up call" to other businesses in Thunder Bay, said Alan Auld, a network consultant with Teleco, who will also be speaking at the event. 

"You hear these stories in the news a lot and you think 'oh it's not going to happen to us, the big businesses are the ones that get hit,' but cyberattacks can happen to everyone whether they're large businesses or small businesses." 

It may sound like simple advice, but the importance of strong passwords shouldn't be underestimated, he said, explaining that human error is often what allows cyberattacks to happen.

"The big weakness is always us: people," said Det. Const. Chris Dunnill of the Thunder Bay Police Service. 

Cybersecurity is becoming a bigger focus for police, he added. 

"It continues to grow. Businesses are losing so much money every year because of these things. So it's a concern for the police, a concern for the everyday consumer. But the problem ... is that generally these attacks are coming from elsewhere in the world, places we can't touch. So ... our main defence is to take care of ourselves."  

The cybersecurity awareness breakfast takes place Wednesday Oct. 10 at the Lakehead Law School Auditorium, and registration is required.