Toronto Public Library service nears return months after cyberattack

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Toronto library close to gradual return months after cyberattack
WATCH: Nearly three months after a cybersecurity attack took down the majority of the Toronto library's computer-based services, the city says they'll soon return. But the city's decision to cut its IT department's budget is raising questions about future attacks. Matthew Bingley reports – Jan 18, 2024

Nearly three months after a cybersecurity attack knocked off the majority of online services at the Toronto Public Library, city officials say many of them will begin returning by the end of the month.

Hackers targeted the TPL in an attack on Oct. 28, stealing a large number of files from its servers. Among the data stolen was private information of current and former employees, including their names, social insurance numbers and home addresses, as well as copies of government-issued identification.

The library said it didn’t pay a ransom to have the information returned and has been working with third-party experts to restore services and beef up safety.

At an announcement promoting a plan to restore city services in the ongoing budget process, Mayor Olivia Chow and Coun. Paul Ainslie, a library board of directors member, said library services will start returning by the end of January. Ainslie said they’ll begin rolling out other services as they go.

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While materials could still be borrowed and returned and Wi-Fi access was still available, a large number of services, including access to digital collections and public computers and the ability to place and manage holds, have all been unavailable since the fall.

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Chow said the TPL was operating on its own internet servers when it was attacked, as was the Toronto Zoo when it, too, faced a cybersecurity attack earlier this year. The mayor said work is now underway to bring them and outside agencies onto Toronto’s more secure network, boasting that only New York City’s was stronger.

“We’re inviting the agencies boards and commissions to join into the central city of Toronto IT system so they are far more secure and this is the process of what’s happening,” Chow said.

The city’s staff-proposed budget is proposing a cut to its information technology sector and some are questioning the move at a time when attacks, especially those targeting municipalities, are on the rise.

Toronto budget chief Shelley Carroll said the city’s chief information officer has assured her that the move can be done safely.

“Remember the point of innovating constantly technologies is you hope they get more and more efficient,” Carroll said.

“So there’s a confidence here that we’ll be using a system that, while it may be more affordable, it actually is the cutting edge and is the most updated we need to protect our systems.”


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