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B.C. government says 'sensitive' information breached in state-sponsored cyberattack

B.C.'s public safety minister says "there is no indication" at this point that the general public's information has been breached.
On June 3, 2024, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth provided an update on a cybersecurity breach of the B.C. government.

B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says a sophisticated state-sponsored cyberattack has led to “sensitive” data being accessed from 22 email accounts of government employees.

Of those 22 accounts, there was sensitive information on 19 individuals.

Farnworth said at a news conference Monday “there is no indication” at this point in time that the general public’s information has been breached.

Farnworth said he could not comment on what ministries have been targeted and that no cabinet member’s information was targeted.

Government cybersecurity falls within the mandate of the Ministry of Citizens' Services, headed by Minister George Chow, who was not present at the news conference.

Farnworth fielded just six questions from media in the 11-minute update.

The attack was first detected on April 10 and reported to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security April 11. It is described as a series of attacks that ultimately led to Premier David Eby being personally briefed on April 17.

On April 29, officials detected additional and broader activity by the same threat actor. Shannon Salter, deputy minister to the premier and head of the public service, then ordered all public servants to change their computer passwords.

On May 2, the threat actor was detected covering its tracks and on May 8 the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security provided a classified briefing, which was provided to the B.C. cabinet.

On May 10, Farnworth stated there was no indication sensitive government or personal information had been compromised.

Farnworth has not disclosed what state is behind the attack.

On Monday, the Canadian government issued a statement on cybersecurity, identifying China as a leading threat.    

“This statement is being issued to raise awareness of the threat to Canada and the Canadian public posed by malicious cyber activity by foreign states and their affiliates.

“Certain foreign states — including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, Iran, and North Korea — are conducting wide-ranging and long-term campaigns to compromise government and private sector computer systems. These states obtain information that can be used to interfere with our political systems and our critical infrastructure, and can be used to threaten or harm people in Canada.

“The most extensive state-sponsored cyber threat activity against Canada stems from the PRC. The Government of Canada urges the Canadian cyber security community, particularly critical infrastructure network defenders, to bolster their awareness of, and protection against, the PRC’s sophisticated cyber threat activity.”

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