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HomeBusinessB.C. Legislature hacked almost 10 days ago, website and email remains down

B.C. Legislature hacked almost 10 days ago, website and email remains down

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Bob Mackin

British Columbia’s Legislature has finally admitted what theBreaker.news reported last week: it was hacked.

Parliament Buildings, Victoria, on Aug. 13, 2020 (Mackin)

In a statement posted to the Legislative Assembly’s Twitter account before 9 a.m. Nov. 19, it confirmed there had been “unauthorized access to a small number of servers.”

It claimed the information technology staff contained the situation after noticing suspicious activity and took down the network on Nov. 10. But it does not explain why the website and email system remain down almost a week-and-a-half later.

“At this time there is no evidence of unauthorized access to or loss of Legislative Assembly or personal data as a result of this incident,” the statement said.

Clerk Assistant Artour Sogomonian told theBreaker.news on Nov. 19 that contact had been made with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner on Nov. 11 and RCMP on Nov. 13. He said Microsoft found no indication that information had been accessed or personal data breached.

“As part of our secure resumption, our information technology team is planning a migration to a new web and email presence,” Sogomonian said. “The priority is to do this gradually in a secure manner. At this time, I cannot provide a definitive date for the full resumption of all services. The Legislative Assembly does have backup systems, but in situations such as this, time is required to fully recover securely.”

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth was Government House Leader until Sept. 21 when Premier John Horgan called the snap Oct. 24 election. Farnworth said the incident did not affect government operations.

Will the website and email system be back in service by Nov. 24, when MLAs are sworn-in? 

“That I am not able to answer at this point,” Farnworth said. “The IT experts are busy working to ensure that everything can be brought on when it is appropriate and safe.” 

It took almost three days for the Legislature to make its first public statement on Nov. 13, after theBreaker.news sought comment from officials. The Legislature initially used the words “unscheduled maintenance” on a placeholder page. Several MLAs took to their own social media accounts to tell citizens that there was no email service for the time being. Some even complained they could not access their phone systems.

(Twitter)

The official silence continued. Sergeant-at-Arms Greg Nelson referred queries to Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd, who did not respond. Sogomonian was designated the media lead but did not provide additional information until Nov. 19.

theBreaker.news also contacted the Legislature’s IT director David Derby, the government’s chief security officer Paul Stanley, spokespeople for the Office of the Premier, the Information and Privacy Commissioner and Attorney General David Eby.

They either did not reply or did not comment. The B.C. RCMP media relations office on Nov. 13 claimed it was unaware. 

On Nov. 18, Premier John Horgan set Nov. 24 as the date for a virtual swearing-in of MLAs and Nov. 26 for his new cabinet.

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