School District No. 5 Southeast Kootenay has revealed a cyber incident on January 23, 2019, that infected computers at the SD5 Board Office and Fernie Learning Centre with the Emotet Virus, potentially disclosing personal or confidential information inside emails on the computers.
SD5 said the Emotet Virus is primarily spread through spam emails, being received through malicious script, malicious links or document files.
"It is polymorphic, which means it has the ability to alter itself every time it is downloaded, allowing it to evade signature-based detection; the detection of specific patterns or known malicious instruction sequences typically used by malware," said SD5. "Although the Emotet Virus was contained to the original infected network at the Board Office and all computers were immediately shut off, wiped and re-imaged, during this cyber-attack, the email files from the infected computers were jeopardized."
The Emotet Virus managed to obtain email files from the infected computers and those emails may be forwarded onto other people, further spreading the contaminated attachments. SD5 said the risk of the cyber incident is that personal, salary, or confidential information such as phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses could be disclosed.
“The District contacted the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner immediately following the discovery of this email security breach, and we have been following all protocols provided by the Office, including sending out a release to inform the general public," said Alan Rice, Secretary-Treasurer of SD5.
Rice believes the primary risk of the Emotet Virus is the spread of malware attachments and the intent to further spread the virus, not for the purpose of disclosing personal information that may be found inside the emails.
Regardless, SD5 is notifying the public of the cyber attack.
“We are still investigating the incident and will release more information as it becomes available," said Rice.
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner recommended several security steps to SD5, as the School District also purchased additional Cybersecurity products to reduce the future risk of emails being compromised and will be training staff on cybersecurity.
Audio: Alan Rice, SD5 Secretary-Treasurer