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Bandits behind cyber-attack on Barrie health clinics still unknown

'They were given advice not to pay the ransom. That’s what is traditionally said in these cases,' says Barrie police official
Stock image.

Barrie police continue to keep a close eye on the situation after a possible ransomware attack struck a network of Barrie medical clinics last week, but say no more information is available on who is behind the attack.

“We are obviously aware of what has taken place and was reported and are monitoring any progress that may be made through what the impact organization is doing on its end,” said Peter Leon, communications coordinator with Barrie police. ‘I can’t comment on what they’re doing at the end of the investigation with the third-party that they’ve hired.”

The Barrie and Community Family Health Team (BCFHT), which operates the local clinics, confirmed earlier this week what they are calling a “cyber-security incident” involving their computer network.

Matt Orava, chair of the board of directors, has said they are working with external legal counsel and third-party cyber-security experts to "contain, remediate and conduct an investigation" into the incident.

The Barrie and Community Family Health Team (BCFHT) confirmed to BarrieToday on March 11 what they are calling a 'cyber-security incident' involving their computer network. Pictured is one of their clinics at Big Bay Point Road and Prince William Way. | Kevin Lamb/BarrieToday files

Orava also noted BCFHT has no evidence to believe that patient information was impacted, adding its electronic medical records (EMR) system is housed separately and was also not affected by the incident.

The complaint was lodged with Barrie police on March 8 through their online reporting system, has been forwarded to the department's fraud unit.

Leon says it could take some time to get to the bottom of what happened. 

“These things don’t sort themselves out overnight. It takes time,” he said. “They were given advice not to pay the ransom. That’s what is traditionally said in these cases."

Leon also said that "time is of the essence" in such cases. 

"We know that and we’ve certainly seen it in other jurisdictions where they’ve taken the matter into their own hands … but there’s no guarantee that if you pay the ransom they will release what they say they will release … or it could be the start of a number of related ransoms," he added. 

Through incidents like this one, Leon said it can also heighten public awareness. 

“When these types of things happen it’s a message to others in business and, personally, to make sure that any safety precautions, firewalls and anything you have in place needs to be looked at to make sure that it remains as strong as it can be so you don’t become the next victim,” he said.

Leon pointed to similar cyber-attacks that hit Toronto’s Hospital For Sick Children last year as well as in Hamilton and Huntsville this week.

“When it happens to a business or a corporation, it should serve as a message to others that yes, you too could be vulnerable and make sure you’ve got people and resources on staff that can make sure your information remains your information and doesn’t get into the hands of someone else,” Leon said.

“The advice police often provides in these types of situations is not to pay the ransom because there is no guarantee that once you pay what they ask that they are going to do what they say they’re going to do," he added. 

BradfordToday and InnisfilToday contacted Orava for an update, but did not receive a response prior to publication of this article.