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B.C. confident that cybersecurity attacks on government were state directed

VICTORIA — The head of British Columbia’s public service said Friday there was high confidence that cybersecurity attacks targeting the provincial government’s networks were conducted by a state or state-sponsored actor.

Shannon Salter, who is also deputy minister to the premier, said in a briefing that there was no evidence sensitive information was compromised.

The incidents were revealed on Wednesday by Premier David Eby who called the attacks “sophisticated.”

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said later that police were involved in the investigation, as well as the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security is part of Canada’s national cryptologic agency, the Communications Security Establishment, providing guidance, services and support to government on cybersecurity.

Salter said Friday that she couldn’t comment on whether the government knew the identity of the state or state-sponsored actor behind what she said were three separate incidents. 

The problem was first noticed on April 10, then confirmed and reported the next day, she said.

Salter said she first briefed Eby on April 17, but cabinet was not briefed until Wednesday, the same day the incidents became public knowledge. 

A government source said Wednesday that the incidents were related to a directive to all provincial employees early last week that they should immediately change their passwords.

That directive had previously been described by B.C.’s Office of the Chief Information Officer as a precaution, in a statement suggesting the government was “routinely updating security measures.”

Farnworth said on Thursday that there had been a delay releasing information about the attacks because cybersecurity experts advised that the priority was protecting the system and its information before going public, something that could potentially increase vulnerability.

The government cyberattack came amid other incidents in the province in recent weeks, including hackers targeting B.C. libraries and demanding a ransom not to reveal user data, and an attack that forced retailer London Drugs to shut down stores across Western Canada for more than a week.

London Drugs President Clint Mahlman said in an interview Thursday that he didn’t now if the breach might be connected to the B.C. government incident.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2024.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


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