Attempting to avoid an unavoidable reality: Cyberattack directed at County of Elgin network results in a data breach impacting hundreds of individuals


city_scope_logo-cmykA ‘technical disruption’ that plagued Elgin county through April was confirmed yesterday (May 13) as “a cyber security incident” in a media release.
The attack impacted the county’s website and email system.
And now the county is confirming some personal information has been breached, however, there is no evidence this data was used to commit fraud or identity theft.
We spoke with County of Elgin CAO Julie Gonyou yesterday for elaboration on the incident.
She advised, “From April 1st to the 27th, we were navigating a cyber security incident so we had our network down with the exception of a couple of critical functions for long-term care.
“We brought the network back up and our cyber security experts who we hired as consultants alerted us on May 3 to a data breach with information dumped on the dark web.
“By the time we found out we had resumed normal operations so we do believe there is a connection.”
As to how many individuals have been impacted by the breach, Gonyou responded, “in and around 330 and within that 330, there are two levels of notification.

“Some required more urgent notification and those involved a breach of financial information, social insurance numbers and health card information and so we provided and Purolated the same day notifications to those folks today to make sure they have access to credit monitoring and identity theft protection services, which we will be offering to them for a year.”
Julie GonyoujpgWhen alerted to the breach, Gonyou advised their consultants went through 26,000 files.
“We spent hundreds of hours accessing and reviewing each and every one of those files to ensure we’re providing proper notice to individuals who were impacted.
“At the end of the day, Elgin county was a target and we were victims too. It’s not as though we left information on a park bench or left a memory stick laying around.
“We had protections in place and this is, unfortunately, the world we live in.”
Asked if this was a ransomware attack, Gonyou felt it was not.
“We are confident at this time it was not a ransomware attack, where they hold your information for ransom.”
As secure as county officials felt their network was, is it possible to be 100 per cent protected from attack in today’s world?

“We were well protected before this incident took place, so our current reality is to be on guard and be on top of what is changing in the cyber world to avoid what may be an unavoidable reality for many.”

Municipalities, healthcare systems and even utility companies have all endured such attacks.
“We are enhancing our security measures and we are conducting regular system health checks to make sure that we are keeping up to date with that high level of sophistication that these cyberattackers are working with.
“We are doing everything we can and making our systems more robust. We were well protected before this incident took place, so our current reality is to be on guard and be on top of what is changing in the cyber world to avoid what may be an unavoidable reality for many.”
Gonyou pointed out this was not unique to Elgin county.
“This is something that is happening to various sized businesses. This is something other organizations should be on high alert for and be vigilant.
“And individuals in our community need to be vigilant with their personal information and where they are sharing it.”
If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft or you have reason to believe your information is being misused, contact your local police service and file a report.
And, report the details to https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm.
An FAQ section on fraud and identity theft has been added to the county’s website at https://www.elgincounty.ca/services/privacy-information/

FOUR-WAY STOP HALTED

It’s a victory – albeit minor in scale – for the neighbourhood around the former Alma College property.
At Monday’s council meeting, those residents – with the help of the majority of city council members – had their wishes prevail over a city staff recommendation.
Alma College Square traffic option 2 May 2022In March of this year, city staff approached the residents on Moore and McIntyre streets to garner input on a trio of potential traffic control scenarios at the entrance to the Alma College Square residential development.
A report to council with three scenarios was debated Monday with the first option being a four-way stop sign at the intersection of the two streets.
This is the preferred option of city staff.
The majority of neighbourhood residents wanted to see one-way traffic south on Moore and east on McIntyre.
Right from the get-go, it was obvious most council members were not buying into the staff recommendation.
Coun. Jim Herbert put it best, “I think if we take the time to ask people what they want and they tell us they want one-way traffic, I think it’s something we need to take a look at.
“Why even ask them?”

“I think in the short term, we need to listen to the wishes of the neighbours. I’m curious why staff would recommend something that wasn’t in support of the neighbours?”

As a compromise, Herbert supported the one-way northbound option but with a stop sign at the intersection of the two streets.
Coun. Steve Peters reminded those in the chamber, “The neighbourhood didn’t cause this, the development has caused this. It’s taken over two-and-a-half years to get from construction to occupancy (of Phase 1) so if that’s the same pace for Tower 2 which hasn’t even broken ground, we’re at least another two-and-a-half years away from seeing an entrance off Ross Street, which will ultimately alleviate a lot of these concerns.
“I think in the short term, we need to listen to the wishes of the neighbours. I’m curious why staff would recommend something that wasn’t in support of the neighbours?”
Director of Engineering Justin Lawrence advised there are two reasons.
“One, is that the traffic study suggested that is the safest option and the second is a tough question for council and do you consider all the votes of the people who don’t live here yet?
“So if there are 500 people who live there and in theory if they were to vote for a stop sign, it would be 500 to 17.
“That’s the tough question and it’s hard to answer at this point.”
And extremely hypothetical, when a decision is required at this time, not in the future.
Only councillors Mark Burgess, Joan Rymal and Steve Wookey voted in favour of the all-way stop.
Coun. Herbert’s suggestion of a stop sign at the intersection of the two streets was defeated on a 5-4 vote with councillors Gary Clarke, Burgess, Herbert and Wookey in favour.

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MEASURING THE SPLASH FOR AN AQUATIC CENTRE

After much deliberation at last year’s final council meeting, there has been barely a ripple of conversation since about a proposed aquatic/community centre for St. Thomas.
At that meeting, members unanimously approved moving forward with the next exploratory stage which includes reviewing financial partnerships with surrounding county municipalities, reviewing potential operating partnership opportunities and retaining a consultant to determine a Class C cost estimate for such a facility.

“A consultant has been retained to do a more accurate estimate of the facility itself. I’m expecting the results of that study toward the end of May. We will be doing a short survey with the public, letting them know the capital cost associated with the facility.”

Mayor Joe Preston used that opportunity to remind all in attendance that “Because of our debt ratio, for a number of years anyway, there is no way we can do this all on our own.
“Everybody keeps banting about $35 million, I would maybe suggest it may be twice that.”
As part of the motion approved in December, staff are to present findings to council his month.
At the council meeting this past Monday, the centre’s main proponent, Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands asked Jeff Bray, the city’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Property Management for an update on the proposed facility.
He advised, “A consultant has been retained to do a more accurate estimate of the facility itself. I’m expecting the results of that study toward the end of May.
“We will be doing a short survey with the public, letting them know the capital cost associated with the facility. This survey will be structured so that people don’t have to be concerned about multiple people participating.”
He explained the survey would be done using Surveymonkey.
“You can control the URLs and track them and I’ll be bringing a report mid-June with the results.”
Is Bray implying the results of a survey undertaken late last year by the technical committee struck to “create a physical concept plan and determine the location for a new community and aquatic centre,” may be somewhat coloured by multiple votes from individuals?
That survey generated 1,979 responses which is a considerable number for a city questionnaire.

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A community/aquatic centre for St. Thomas: ‘If you want to play, how much are you going to pay?’

THE SCARS OF COVID

Thanks to provincial funding, the staffing complement at Valleyview Home is about to significantly increase.
It is related to the Ford government’s promise to increase direct care to four hours per resident per day by 2025.
The Ministry of Long-Term Care is providing the city with $81,531 per month in 2022-23 to allow Valleyview to increase its full-time PSW complement to 50 from 39 and its part-time complement to 55 from 41.
Valleyview HomeThe funding is projected to increase to $1,731,420 per year in 2023-24 and $2,241,768 in 2024-25.
In a report to council from Valleyview administrator Michael Carroll, he advises “staff at Valleyview have been developing a program that maximizes the direct care hours which can be provided to our residents as well as maximizing the distribution of nursing PSW shifts to provide our staff with the best possible working conditions and a better home/work balance.”

“The new long-term care act adds renewed energy and focuses on developing and maintaining a robust infection prevention and control program. The scars of COVID fueled this initiative.”

Carroll continues, “The goal of the program was to refocus the delivery of care model to build on our many strengths but
also to take advantage of opportunities which are presenting themselves. Staff will introduce a complete new PSW schedule over the coming months with final implementation in September.”
The city is also receiving $15,360 per month in 2022-23 to increase allied health professional staffing.
Carroll is recommending that money be used to increase the number of recreationist staff to allow Valleyview “to increase programming for our residents and provide one full-time recreationist per resident home area.”
It is assumed Elgin county will receive a similar funding boost for its three homes.
But what about the for-profit sector, which continues to be ravaged more than two years into the pandemic?
For example, Caressant Care Nursing Home in Woodstock, had an outbreak declared at the end of March which has seen 52 resident and 19 staff cases of COVID-19.
As of Friday, Extendicare in Port Stanley reported 23 resident cases and 10 staff cases.
Carroll points out, “The new long-term care act adds renewed energy and focuses on developing and maintaining a robust infection prevention and control program. The scars of COVID fueled this initiative.
“The ministry now requires that homes appoint a staff member to lead the program.”

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.

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