Most county systems up and running again following “cyber incident”

Troy Shantz

The OPP has confirmed it is investigating what Lambton County describes as a “cyber incident” that shut down some county email and software applications.

Corporate services manager Stephane Thiffeault declined to say whether the incident was a ransomware attack, in which criminals seize control of a computer system and demand a ransom for its release.

“Ultimately, all these things are still evolving,” he said. “I’ve got to respect the investigation process. I really don’t have a comment on that.”

Stéphane Thiffeault

The county became aware of the problem on May 28 and brought in outside experts to assist its own IT team.

Email service has “for the most part” been restored and the county believes no personal information was compromised, Thiffeault said Tuesday.

“We have a number of software applications that are still down that our IT group is working around the clock to get back up and operational,” he said.

“Our top priorities in terms of getting the operations back online have been, for the most part, achieved – our file directories, emails, and other applications we use internally.”

OPP Const. Jamie Bydeley confirmed police are investigation the cyber incident.

“The depth of investigation, however, will be determined by many factors,” he said.

Sarnia and county councillor Margaret Bird, who has been vocal about online vulnerability, declined to discuss the incident.

“No comments from councillors as this was an in-camera (closed door) topic,” she said.

Most applications used by Lambton’s long-term care homes and Lambton Public Health, including the COVID-19 vaccination booking system, were not impacted.

The county apologized to anyone who was  inconvenienced and said it is committed to protecting the privacy of all residents.

Anyone still having trouble reaching county contacts is asked to call general reception at 519-845-0801.

Dozens of Sarnia-Lambton businesses and organizations have been hit by ransomware attacks in recent years and many more are vulnerable, local IT expert Hans Study has said.

The City of Burlington was taken for $500,000 in 2019 by a hacker acting as a trusted vendor updating banking information, and a similar scam cost Ottawa $100,000 when its treasurer transferred funds after receiving a fraudulent email that appeared to come from the city manager.