Cyber security news roundup: A widespread malware threat, ransomware attacks and phishing scams

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In an increasingly digital world, cyber security issues are an inevitable (and ever-growing) part of the landscape. As a result of COVID-19’s increased effect on security breaches, this continues to be a hot topic in local, national and international news coverage. Here is a brief roundup of some of the most interesting recent news items from the past month.

Cyber security attack targets Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Saskatchewan Polytechnic fell victim to a cyber attack on Nov. 1. Though the specific type of attack has not been disclosed to the public, the school is reported to be making progress on safely restoring systems, after all online and in-person classes were cancelled until Nov. 4.

Takeaway: Cyber attacks are common and can happen to anyone. A simple tip to help protect yourself is to update your passwords often and use different passwords for all your accounts. By doing this, if one of your passwords gets compromised, your other accounts will still be safe. Learn more about password best practices.

Phishing scam reported at Waterloo University

The University of Waterloo reported a phishing scam on Oct. 26, which took the form of a convincing email, targeting university faculty, staff and students. Recipients were told they could receive $2,000 for COVID-19 support by filling out a form.

Takeaway: Educate yourself on phishing red flags. Some tips include hovering over links to view the link address, looking for typos or bad grammar and reaching out to the contact directly to confirm the details in the email.

Cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers

KrebsOnSecurity received a tip that a well-known Russian cybercriminal gang, Ryuk, was preparing to disrupt information technology systems at hospitals, clinics and medical care facilities across the United States. While there have only been a handful of attacks so far, the malware seems to be targeted against Windows systems, but there are some indications that it may also impact other platforms like Linux.

Takeaway: University staff and faculty are urged to be on alert and continue efforts around applying regular patches as needed. Managing vulnerabilities on your environment is a one of the best practices against the ever-evolving threat landscape. Review this tip sheet from the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.

Cyber attack hits Jewish General’s IT network

The Jewish General Hospital and other institutions in Montreal’s west end fell victim to a computer virus that attacked their information technology systems on Oct. 28. In response, access to networks were quickly suspended, which limited access to patient records and data. Since the intrusion was spotted early, no data was accessed and no ransom demand was made.

Takeaway: Ransomware is typically spread via spam or phishing emails, exploitation of software vulnerabilities or remote admin (e.g., remote desktop protocol) connections that are accessible from the internet. Learn more about ransomware and how to protect yourself.

Montreal public transport agency refuses to pay ransomware hackers

A ransomware attack targeted Société de transport de Montréal’s (STM) servers and asked for $2.8 million as ransom, which the agency is refusing to pay. The attack impacted 624 operationally sensitive servers and stopped STM from providing adapted transit for almost one week.

Takeaway: While there is no way to fully prevent ransomware, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize your risk, including providing security awareness training for employees, patching operating systems and third-party apps, performing frequent back-ups and more.


For more tips on staying safe online, visit the Remote Security Matters webpage.