Update: Some services restored – Town of Greater Napanee services allegedly compromised by hackers

The Town of Greater Napanee Municipal Administration Centre, located at 99 Advance Avenue in Napanee, on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, at 10:01 a.m. Please see bottom of article for most recently updated information.

Original article:
Many of the town of Greater Napanee’s services were disrupted on the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, after its servers were believed to have been compromised by hackers, but Town officials said that emergency services were unaffected by the alleged breach and remained fully operational.

The breach came to light between 2 and 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, as Town employees experienced email and internet service disruptions, and the Town’s point-of-sale systems stopped working at various locations.

“Please be advised that payments being made by card at our Municipal Administration Centre [at 99 Advance Avenue] and the Strathcona Paper Centre are currently unavailable. Notice will be provided once machines are back in service. We apologize for the inconvenience,” the Town posted on its social media shortly before 3 p.m., the only public notification of any kind addressing the issue that day.

The Town quickly asked staff to cease using their internet-connected devices and quarantined all computers and communication devices pending a forensic audit of the breach.

The Town has not provided any timeline for when internet-dependent services, such as point-of-sale payments, will be operational again.

Bill Hammond, Chief of Greater Napanee Emergency Services, indicated that, while he had been informed of the possible disruption to communication services early on Thursday afternoon, there had been no adverse effects to emergency response.

“We’re operating as normal,” said Hammond, confirming that GNES dispatching services are operated independently from Greater Napanee Town communications. “We’re dispatched through a contract with Kingston Fire & Rescue and the CACC.”

The Central Ambulance Communications Centre (CACC) also operations out of Kingston. Hammond indicated he could not comment further at this time.

Similarly, the Napanee Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) was also unaffected, as confirmed by Constable David Yome, Media Relations Officer for the Lennox and Addington County Detachment of the OPP. Yome clarified that the OPP’s dispatches are also independently operated from a dispatch centre in Orillia, Ontario.

This is a developing story, check back for more information as it becomes available.

Update (Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, at 11:25 a.m.):
Citing legal advice, representatives from the Town of Greater Napanee declined to comment on the apparent hacking of the Town’s servers on the morning of Friday, Jan. 12, 2024.

The servers became compromised the day prior, leading to a disruption of services at the Town’s Municipal Administration Centre, including point-of-sale services and all internet activity. No signage outside or within the 99 Advance Avenue indicated a disruption of Town services, though the Town did post about the disruption on social media on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024 (see above).

As outlined above, the Town’s emergency and police services remain unaffected by the incident, as Greater Napanee Emergency Services’ dispatch and communications services are operated by Kingston Fire & Rescue and the Lennox and Addington County Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) communications and dispatch services are operated out of an Orillia.

According to Zatterberg, it is unknown if/when the Town of Greater Napanee will issue a statement addressing the situation.

This remains a developing story. Further coverage will be provided if/when more information becomes available.

Update (Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, at 2:40 p.m.):
Just after 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, the Town of Greater Napanee released an statement regarding the situation affecting its servers and networks, leaving many of the Town’s services disrupted.

“The Town of Greater Napanee can confirm that we recently experienced a cyber security incident which affected our systems. We became aware of this on January 11, 2024,” the statement read.

“We moved quickly to address the incident, shutting down access to our systems to minimize any impact and maintain integrity. We immediately engaged a team of experts to investigate the incident and have notified law enforcement. We have been working around the clock to further investigate this incident, including details around how it occurred,” the statement continued.

“Our investigation is still in the very early stages. Until it is further along, we are not able to determine with certainty its impacts. Once that investigation is completed, we will take the appropriate and immediate steps to communicate directly with anyone impacted. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.”

Kingstonist will continue to monitor this situation and provide updated coverage as more information becomes available.

Update (Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, at 10:15 a.m.):
Some payment services that were suspended due to a cyberattack on Town of Greater Napanee networks have now been restored, the Town communicated via social media on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024.

“Please be advised that payments processed by debit and credit card are being accepted once again at our Municipal Administration Centre and the Strathcona Paper Centre,” the Town posted on its Facebook page.

“Pre-authorized payments will be resuming this week as well.”

Kingstonist inquired with the Town as to whether the restored services indicate progress has been made in addressing the cyber security breach. Kingstonist also asked whether the nature of the cyberattack had been determined, and whether personal, financial, or sensitive data (of the Town or its clients/residents) had been accessed.

“We are not able to provide any additional comments at this time,” Kylie Huffman, Community Engagement and Communications Clerk for the Town of Greater Napanee, responded in an email.

“Any further updates will be communicated via a media release.”

Huffman confirmed that this update was solely communicated as a notice on social media. The update was not sent out as a media release or part of an email newsletter, nor was it posted to the Town website.

Kingstonist will continue to provide updates on this matter as more information becomes available.

With files from Michelle Dorey Forestell and Tori Stafford.

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