‘Modern day bank robbery’: Still no answers 2 weeks after Toronto Public Library cyber attack

It’s been two weeks since the Toronto Public Library was the target of a ransomware attack. Brandon Rowe speaks with a cybersecurity expert to find out why TPL is a lucrative target for hackers and when services might be up and running again.

By Brandon Rowe and John Marchesan

It’s been two weeks since the Toronto Public Library (TPL) revealed it was the victim of a ransomware attack yet the largest public library system in Canada is no closer to resuming full service.

The library’s network of 100 branches remains open to the public but many of the services that residents rely on are still unavailable, such as the library’s website, “your account” service, tpl:map passes and digital collections. The library says customers can continue to borrow and return items “until further notice.”

“I think the City of Toronto needs to be concerned about the extent of this hack,” Daniel Tsai, professor of business law and technology at the University of Toronto tells CityNews.

“One thing that’s troubling is the lack of transparency and disclosure to the public of what the nature of the hack is and how private data, personal information might be impacted by this.”

TPL acknowledged on Friday that sensitive data may have been “exposed” in the cybersecurity incident but said further investigation was needed to determine the extent of the exposure and the individuals affected.

“This is modern-day bank robbery,” said Tsai. “But now in the form of IT and hacked systems, and so what you are going to see is this is going to be a growing trend and this is going to be more of a problem.”

Tsai goes on to say these kinds of public institutions are seen as easy targets for hackers and that governments at both the provincial and city levels need to play more of an active role when it comes to funding to curb these types of attacks.

“We have to keep in mind that not all organizations are the same. Banks and large financial institutions are literally in the billions of dollars when it comes to their IT budgets,” explains Tsai. “We’re talking about the Toronto Public Library, that’s a public institution, and these types of places become targets because they don’t typically have the same types of investments when it comes to IT security.”

CityNews reached out to Toronto police who said they are aware and are investigating the incident.

TPL says on its website that they are actively collaborating with third-party experts to assess the scope of the exposure adding that they anticipate the investigation “will take some time to complete.”

A special meeting of the TPL board is scheduled for Monday night at 6 p.m. to further discuss the security incident.

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