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Cyber-attacks against municipalities increasing

May 28, 2019

You may have read in the New York Times last week that the City of Baltimore was a victim of ransomware. The effect was profound and essentially immobilized many of the city’s operations. These kinds of attacks are on the rise and Baltimore’s experience is a clear warning to AUMA members.

But, there have been many such warnings over the past couple of years. In 2017 alone, cybercrimes cost the Canadian economy between $3 billion and $5 billion. Federal, municipal and provincial government databases are particularly attractive to hackers because they have a wealth of personal & confidential information about their citizens. Information ranging from parking tickets to credit card information are held in these databases and would be a jackpot for hackers looking to commit heinous crimes such as identify theft. These government databases tend to be out-of-date, so they provide the perfect opportunity for hackers to infiltrate and immobilize the entire computer system.

Several ransomware (hack/virus) attacks on businesses and municipal government offices within Ontario have been reported in recent months. While this is a cause for concern, it’s especially problematic for small to mid-sized cities, counties, and towns, which may have only one full-time person devoted to IT. In Cockrell Hill, Texas, a community of about 4,000, a ransomware attack in December 2016 encrypted all the files in the police department dating to 2009. When the department refused to pay the $4,000 ransom demand, the records held by the hackers were erased.

“Every second counts to ensure you minimize losses, damage, and down time to your systems,” explains Cameron Vierboom, Director of Claims, AUMA. He continues, “It’s quite alarming to see cyber claims from municipalities in Alberta trending upwards. However, our insurers have experts who can help with everything from identifying the issues, to working with the Privacy Commissioner. The key is letting our claims team know as soon as you think your municipality has had an event.”  

Always keeping our members’ needs as our top priority, AUMA provides up to $150,000 limited coverage per cybercrime loss. This value-add is free to our general insurance subscribers. Additionally, AUMA is exploring how we might assist our members with preventative measures.

If you feel your municipality is at greater risk and might require additional coverage, contact a member of our Insurance team who will be glad to help with any coverage or claim questions.