Investigation into Saint John cyberattack finds no evidence of personal information breached
On Nov. 15, 2020, the City of Saint John made a Facebook post warning the public of the cyberattack.
HALIFAX -- An investigation into a "significant" cyberattack in Saint John last fall has found no evidence that personal information was breached.
However, because it is not a guarantee, city officials are still advising residents to keep an eye on their financial records for suspicious activity.
"The absence of evidence does not mean there's evidence of absence," said Dominic Vogel, a cybersecurity expert. "It's a bit of a tongue-twister but it means even though you can't find a smoking gun, doesn't mean there's no smoking gun."
On Nov. 15, 2020, the City of Saint John made a Facebook post warning the public of the cyberattack. They also advised that, due to the attack, all city Information Technology Systems were being shut down until further notice, including parking enforcement, building permits, and online payments.
The city has since revealed their I.T. system was impacted by a ransomware attack.
Hackers launch ransomware attacks by infecting computers with software and often demand money in exchange for the attack to end.
In January, John Collin, the city manager for Saint John, said the attack deeply penetrated the city's I.T. system, making it more cost effective to rebuild the network rather than repair it.
He also confirmed no ransom was paid as a result of the attack.
The city predicts the new I.T. system, which is currently being rebuilt from scratch, could take until spring to be completed.
"The real world example is, think about your house. If your house was gutted by a fire, for those who come back in, do we rebuild the structure or is it just too wrought with safety concerns," said Vogel.
One cybersecurity expert says, while the city handled the attack well, communication needs to be improved.
"We really don't know much about the story, just pieces... But we can't connect the dots of how it happened, and that's kind of the question right now," said Richard Rogerson, a cybersecurity expert.
Cybersecurity experts say the situation in Saint John is a chance for others to learn how to better protect themselves from the seriousness of cybersecurity threats.
This week, the city unveiled their new website, three months after the cyberattack took it down.