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B.C. government denies websites were hacked, blames firmware update

Several B.C. government websites were out of service for several hours Sunday, and a firmware update is being blamed.
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The first major public notification of trouble came on the DriveBC Twitter account at 2:15 p.m. Sunday, when it announced a network outage.

Numerous British Columbia government websites were out of service for almost 12 hours last weekend.

The Ministry of Citizens’ Services said that between 1:26 p.m. Sunday and 12:30 a.m. Monday, an undetermined number of websites were inaccessible due to maintenance gone awry.

“This was caused by an issue with scheduled firmware update from one of our service providers and there continues to be no indication of malicious intent,” said a statement from the ministry. 

On Monday, the ministry said it was unable to confirm the number of websites impacted, “but this was a widespread, intermittent outage.”

“We are currently working with our service delivery partners Advanced Solutions and Hewlett Packard Enterprise to investigate the root cause of the outage.”

The first major public notification of trouble came on the DriveBC Twitter account at 2:15 p.m. Sunday, when it announced a network outage. The entire highways information website was down, so none of the highway traffic cameras across B.C. was accessible. The Lions Gate Bridge was also affected by a service outage, which meant less-frequent lane changes and additional southbound congestion.

Other inaccessible websites included Premier John Horgan’s page, Government Communications and Public Engagement and the public-facing government employees’ directory.

The NDP government budgeted $173.4 million for enterprise services this year, up from $146.1 million last year, including information technology infrastructure, and network and data services.

The outage came almost two years after a cyber incident at the Legislative Assembly.

The Legislature’s website was taken down Nov. 10, 2020 and replaced with an image that claimed it was subject to “unscheduled maintenance.” The Clerk’s office finally admitted on Nov. 19, 2020 that it had been hacked, but downplayed the severity and said no data had been lost.

The all-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC) and Clerk’s office have not released the report into what went wrong. Then-BC Liberal house leader Peter Milobar expressed frustration at a July 2021 meeting over increasing IT costs and continuing network outages at constituency offices stemming from the incident. 

“Our own ability to service our constituents has been eight months of complete frustration that seems to not be getting any better — if anything, getting worse,” Milobar said. 

The $5.8 million allotted for IT is the biggest line item in the Legislative Operations budget for the current fiscal year.