Fredericton experiencing uptick in cyber attack attempts

·2 min read

Hackers are now "aggressively" targeting New Brunswick municipalities' computer systems after a successful cyber attack on the city of Saint John earlier this week.

The City of Fredericton's chief information officer said logs show a significant increase in attempts to attack the city's computer system, mirroring a trend around the province.

Adam Bell said some types of attempts have increased by 10 times the typical amount.

"What we're learning more and more about how cyber criminals work, is when they find a successful target in an industry, they tend to then start immediately targeting similar organizations," he said.

Saint John announced Sunday night it was the victim of a cyber attack, later confirmed to be ransomware.

Officials have declined to say how much hackers demanded or what systems were affected.

The city's website and online payment systems remain down, while it investigates along with several outside agencies.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

There's currently no evidence that personal information was stolen.

Bell said two days after Saint John was hit, the exact same attack was tried 25 to 30 times against Fredericton's systems.

"It does look like these cyber criminals work specific market areas," he said.

Most attacks currently directed at New Brunswick municipalities are "phishing," such as emails which appear to be legitimate directing people to click on a harmful link and unknowingly download a virus.

Boosting protections

Bell said Fredericton provides cyber awareness training to city employees to tell them how to spot a suspicious email and what to do with one.

The city also sends out simulated phishing attempts as practice.

That's in addition to its fire walls and the contracting of a cyber security company to monitor systems.

In the wake of the Saint John attack, Fredericton is re-evaluating its safeguards and looking at new ways to further secure its systems. It has rolled out several recommendations over the past few days.

Fredericton only discloses successful cyber attacks when there is a breach of personal information, which has yet to occur.

"This game evolves continuously," Bell said. "As we improve our security features, the criminals devise new ways to get around them."