Local municipality still struggling to recover from 'cyber security incident'

·2 min read

Elgin County officials and politicians remain tight-lipped about the cyber disruption that’s rendered its government website and email system inactive for weeks, but say they're optimistic it will be back online soon.

“It’s been difficult," said Sally Martyn, Central Elgin mayor and member of Elgin County council.

"We haven't had any email or anything for quite a while now. But I know they've been working around the clock to get everything fixed."

The county’s website and email remained down Tuesday, nearly three weeks after officials said in an internal memo an outside consultant had been hired to help solve a “cyber security incident.”

In the March 31 memo, the county’s top administrator said officials were concerned about “a very large amount of spam” sent to staff. Officials were working with an external consultant to determine the cause of the issue, the memo stated, adding Elgin has cyber security insurance and is working with an insurance adjuster.

The memo also noted the county was monitoring for any potential data breaches, warning of the possibility of the email system shutting down.

The Free Press reached out to multiple Elgin County officials Tuesday. Most declined to speak, with some citing they weren’t aware of any new details.

In an exchange of messages Tuesday, chief administrator Julie Gonyou said there are no updates about the ongoing issue.

“I don’t have any additional information to report at this time, but we remain hopeful that we’ll be back online at some point this week,” she said.

The online disruption has affected various Elgin County departments, including the library’s computer system and email correspondence between the community and officials.

“I think a lot of people are wondering why we’re not responding,” but “we’re not receiving (them) is the problem,” Martyn said.

Meantime, she added, some staff are using alternative emails to get around the problem.

“It’s been harder to do business without it,” said Martyn, “but we understand that it (has) to be fixed before we get the use of it again.”

Similar disruptions have hit other parts of Southwestern Ontario.

In April 2019, the City of Stratford was forced to pay a ransom of $75,000 in Bitcoins after a cyber attack crippled its email and telephone systems and part of its website. Later that same year, a similar cyber attack jammed Woodstock city hall’s email and computer systems, costing the local government more than $667,000 to fix.

- With files by Jennifer Bieman, The London Free Press



The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

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