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Government acted 'within hours' of website security breach, say officials

Last Updated Mar 13, 2017 at 4:56 pm PDT

The Canada Revenue Agency website was temporarily offline, as seen in this screengrab from March 11, 2017 (Courtesy: CITYNEWS)
Summary

Attempted hack of Stats Canada forced shut down of several government-run websites

CRA doesn't expect delays after its website was shut down following online breach

OTTAWA, ON. (NEWS 1130) – Federal officials say a hack into Statistics Canada‘s main website prompted the government to shut down a number of services over the weekend, including electronic tax filing at the Canada Revenue Agency.

John Glowacki with Shared Services Canada says IT security staffers were made aware of a bug in a computer program widely used by the federal government late Wednesday. But it wasn’t until Thursday, after a breach was discovered at Statistics Canada, that the plug was pulled on the agency’s web servers.

Glowacki adds that action launched a cascade of events that resulted in online services at the Canada Revenue Agency being shut down as well.

The tax agency took several of its web-based services offline as a precaution Friday after a problem was detected in computer servers used by websites worldwide.

By late Sunday, CRA reported it had fixed its system, tested for the vulnerability and had brought all the services back online. The agency maintains no personal data had been compromised before CRA took what they described as a preventative measure. And they insisted that all affected departments “acted very quickly” to deal with the issue.

The CRA services affected by the shutdown included “My Account,” “My Business Account,” “Netfile,” “EFILE” and “Auto-Fill My Return.”

Statistics Canada’s main website was also back up and running by late Sunday.

Expert says Canadians need not worry about filing taxes online

Despite the technical issues, cyber security expert Dominic Vogel says Canadians shouldn’t worry about filing their taxes online.

“This issue was a vulnerability in a very common software that is used across industries,” Vogel says, adding nothing on the CRA website was compromised. “To me, they were just doing their due diligence. I would give them full credit for how they handled it.”

However, for Canadians who may be worried about online tax filing, banking or online shopping, Vogel recommends having a dedicated computer or device for doing those things, and another for general web surfing, so you don’t accidentally download something onto your computer that could compromise your information.