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Information thin as southwestern Ontario hospital cyberattack stretches on

Posted: October 26, 2023

(October 25, 2023)

By: CBC News

Information on the cyberattack affecting five southwestern Ontario hospitals is thin as the outage of key systems including email and patient records stretches on.

An OPP cyber crimes team is investigating the ongoing cyber attack, which was announced on Monday night.

TransForm is the IT provider for hospitals including Windsor Regional, Hotel Dieu, Bluewater Health, Erie Shores HealthCare and the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance.

The agency reported its systems were the subject of the cyberattack.

“I can confirm that the OPP cyber investigation team has been notified and is working in cooperation with the affected organizations, those being Ontario Health and the Windsor Police,” said Bill Dickson, an OPP spokesperson.

OPP declined to comment further on the ongoing investigation. Windsor police had previously said they were not involved in the investigation. Dickerson said Windsor police were involved as the police service of jurisdiction.

TransForm did not provide an update Wednesday, but had previously said it was investigating the scope of the outage — including whether any patient information was affected.

The Communications Security Establishment and its Canadian Centre for Cyber Security said in a statement Tuesday night it was aware of the incident affecting southwestern Ontario hospitals. A spokesperson said the agency does not comment on specific attacks.

“Cyber threats remain a persistent threat to Canadian organizations, as well as critical infrastructure owners and operators,” the agency said in a statement. CSE and the Cyber Centre continue to monitor any developing cyber threats and share threat information with our partners and stakeholders.”

The Ministry of Health said in a statement it was aware of the cyber security breach at TransForm.

“The ministry is confident that TransForm SSO has and continues to take appropriate steps in response to managing this incident,” the ministry said.

Patrick Hannon is the co-chair of the Windsor-Essex Health Coalition, a branch of the Ontario Health Coalition, a health-care advocacy group. He says they want to see an investigation into what went wrong in hospital cyber security.

“Right now, we have this is into the third day where people are are are not getting the treatments that they need hundreds, thousands of patients,” Hannon said. “This is not acceptable.”

“Now that we know who is handling the data for the hospitals in the area, we will be filing our Freedom of Information Act information requests to try and find out what kind of public oversight there is here and to ensure that public that private patient data hasn’t been compromised.”

Hannon, who notes he works as an analyst, says this is one of hundreds of cyber attacks that happens every day.

“This is not something unusual, a critical system such as what we’re seeing here with five hospitals has to have redundancy, has to be able to operate and manage,” Hannon said.

TransForm had previously said it was working from a back-up system that took additional time to access.

Barry Cox has been at Bluewater Health for two weeks awaiting a heart procedure before he can go home. On Tuesday, CBC News reported the procedure had been cancelled — but on Wednesday he told a reporter the procedure has now been rescheduled for Friday.

He says it’s good news and he’s cautiously optimistic the procedure will happen this time.

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