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More public institutions victims of cyberattacks

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More and more public institutions are suffering cyberattacks in Ontario. (Archive photo)

  • Sarah Tomlinson (View profile)Sarah Tomlinson

More and more public institutions in Ontario are being targeted by cybercriminals and, according to several experts in the field, it is because they do not have the resources required to protect themselves and respond to these attacks.

There is technology debt that results in exploitable vulnerabilities. And cybercriminals will obviously look for these flaws to exploit them, says Eric Parent, a cybersecurity specialist.

In Ontario, the Toronto Public Library, the LCBO, hospitals and even the Toronto Zoo have all recently been targeted by cybercriminals.

Charles Finlay, general director of the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst at Toronto Metropolitan University, considers the situation critical and fears that establishments will suffer more cyberattacks.

We are experiencing a cyberattack crisis and several public institutions are suffering. The problem is likely to get worse.

A quote from Charles Finlay, Managing Director of the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst at Toronto Metropolitan University

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Not only are these establishments vulnerable, but they also hold the personal information of many citizens, which could lead to ransom demands, according to Mr. Finlay.

These institutions are very important for our society and for our democracy. And often, these hackers seek to disrupt our social and community infrastructure, he believes.

Mr. Finlay believes, however, that private organizations are targeted as much as public establishments, but that these cases are not as publicized and, therefore, that the public is not aware of them.

Same story from Steve Waterhouse, another expert in the cybersecurity sector.

There are a lot of attacks that are never reported and they never make the news.

A quote from cybersecurity expert Steve Waterhouse

Several experts argue that governments must better fund the cybersecurity of public organizations.

This would allow them to frequently update their systems, according to Jacques Sauvé, cybersecurity consultant at Trilogiam.

The bulk of cybersecurity does not mean spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's just about adopting good practices, putting good configurations in place, he says.

Organizational employees still need to be well informed enough to be able to detect this type of attack.

According to Ritesh Kotak, a cybersecurity expert, the lack of awareness of the dangers linked to cyberattacks is a weakness of public establishments which also deserves the attention of governments.

Education is important as these cybersecurity threats evolve at a rapid pace. It is therefore important for individuals in institutions to be aware of attack indicators.

A quote from Ritesh Kotak, Cybersecurity and Technology Analyst

He adds that organizations should have business continuity plans to avoid their services being inaccessible to the public for long periods of time, which would obviously have an impact on the public and their trust in institutions.

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The Ontario government says it is already providing the required resources to public organizations through the Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

The province also maintains that it is in direct contact with these establishments to ensure that they develop a culture of best practices, especially to protect the security of Ontarians and their personal information.

For its part, the City of Toronto says it is committed to protecting its systems and data. She cites the creation of the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer in 2019 as a preventative measure she has taken.

  • Sarah Tomlinson (View profile)Sarah TomlinsonFollow

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