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Hackers swarm around Ottawa city hall

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Ottawa city hall has been targeted by cyber attacks more than 8,000 times in the past year.

A brief document obtained under a freedom-of-information request shows that through May of this year, monthly attacks ranged from a low of 279 last December to a high of 1,584 in June of 2018, for a total of 8,006.

The city says it won’t give any details about the attacks because it would “pose a security risk to the organization.”

But a cyber-crime expert who works with Ontario municipalities says town and cities are increasingly becoming targets for hackers — and they aren’t fully aware of the dangers.

“A lot of Ontario municipalities … are being hit by ransomware attacks,” said Aleksander Essex, a Western University professor of software engineering

“Ransomware goes in and encrypts all the files and makes a system unusable.” The owner then has to pay money to get the files unlocked, usually in Bitcoin or another cybercurrency because it cannot be traced. The city of Atlanta was hit this way in a catastrophe for the city last year.

Cyberattacks have hit Stratford, Wasaga Beach and Midland in Ontario, and attackers hijacked the city of Cambridge computers to use them for mining cybercurrency. There was no lasting damage in Cambridge.

Stratford was hit by ransomware which shut down municipal phones, email and online forms. City officials have never said whether they paid the ransom.

“A lot of the ransomware that we are starting to see in Ontario municipalities are very sophisticated. The bad guys are what you would call a persistent threat. So they live inside your environment.”

Once they have gained access to the computing infrastructure for a city, they don’t attack immediately. “They’ll gain access and just kind of lurk there for a long period of time, studying the layout. They will identify all the core systems.

“And then when they are ready they pull the trigger, and on top of encrypting all your files they will actually torch the backups as well. So it’s actually quite sophisticated stuff.”

Essex studies online voting security and deals with municipalities across Ontario.

“The level of sophistication from the technological standpoint is lower than what you would hope it would be,” he said.

“Banks are more sophisticated (than municipal governments). Banks have whole anti-fraud units. They have the money to recruit the best cyber-security people. They recruit from law enforcement, they can just bring in everything. Municipalities — their budget are just considerably more constrained.
“But more than that, municipalities have a certain cyber naïveté in certain cases. There’s a certain coming of age that we are seeing in the public sector regarding cyber matters.”

“They are being increasingly targeted. … The municipalities take a long time to wake up to stuff. They are only now starting to become aware of the threat of ransomware.”

And he said the type of attack in which someone tricks a municipality into paying a phoney invoice is also popular. (Ottawa paid more than $100,000 to a con artist last year after the city treasurer received what appeared to be emails from her boss ordering the payment. The emails were fake.)

Essex sits on Western’s cybersecurity committee and said the university has developed new procedures for paying large bills such as construction contracts. “There has to be a multi-factor authentication of who you are paying the money to.”

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Ottawa Book Expo 2020 – Authors, Publishers look forward to a top-notch Canadian book fair

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Diversity has always been a complex issue, no matter where you look.Case in point, world-famous writer, Stephen King, has recently come under criticism for his views on diversity. The best-selling author had stated, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art, only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Many criticized the novelist as being out of touch and “ignorant,” but one cannot deny that King’s opinions on diversity, mirror the thoughts of a whole lot of people in the creative industry.

The Toronto Book Expo is coming back in 2020, with a multi-cultural concept that aims to include marginalized authors.  The Expo intends to celebrate literary works of diverse cultural backgrounds, and the entire literary community in Canada is expectant. Book-lovers and writers alike, are invited to three days of uninhibited literary celebration where diverse cultural works will be prioritized. At the event, authors will be allowed to share their culture with a broad audience. The audience will be there specifically to purchase multi-cultural works.

Multicultural literary expos do not come every day. In Canada, there is a noticeable lack of literary events celebrating other cultures. This leads to a significantly lower amount of cultural diversity in the industry. The Toronto Book Expo would aim at giving more recognition to these marginalized voices. Understandably, more recognizable work will be prioritized.

The Toronto Book Expo is making a statement that diversity is needed in the literary community. The statement is truly motivating, especially if you consider the fact that this could mean more culturally diverse works of literature.

There is a lot of noticeable cultural ignorance in literature. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and books are one of the best means of improving multi-cultural diversity in literature. The Toronto Book Expo is going to fully utilize books to fight ignorance in the literary industry.

Real progress cannot be made if there is a substantial amount of ignorant people in the industry. In spite of advancements made in education in recent years, there is still a considerable percentage of adults who remain unable to read and write.The Toronto Book Expo aims to bring awareness to social literacy issues such as illiteracy.

It is important to uphold high literacy levels in the community and to support those who are uneducated. A thriving society cannot be achieved if the community is not able to read their civil liberties and write down their grievances.

The major foundation of a working and dynamic society is entrenched in literature. Literature offers us an understandingof the changes being made to our community.

The event would go on for three days at three different venues. Day 1 would hold at the York University Student & Convention Centre at 15 Library Lane on March 19. Day 2 would be held at the Bram and BlumaAppel Salon Facility on the second floor of the main Toronto Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto on March 21 and day 3 of the expo would take place at the internationally famous Roy Thomson Hall.

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A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $75,300 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.Attention, Canadians! We’re featuring Money Diaries from across Canada on a regular basis, and we want to hear from you. Submit your Money Diary here.Today: a biologist working in government who makes $75,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bathing suit. Occupation: Biologist
Industry: Government
Age: 27
Location: Ottawa, ON
Salary: $75,300
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,930
Gender Identity: Woman

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Ottawa doctor pens nursery rhyme to teach proper handwashing

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An Ottawa doctor has turned to song to teach kids — and adults, for that matter — how to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.

Dr. Nisha Thampi, an infectious disease physician at CHEO, the area’s children’s hospital, created a video set to the tune of Frère Jacques and featuring the six-step handwashing method recommended by the World Health Organization.

Thampi’s 25-second rendition, which was co-authored by her daughter and Dr. Yves Longtin, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, is featured in the December issue of The BMJ, or British Medical Journal. 

Thampi said as an infectious disease physician and a mother of two, she thinks a lot about germs at home and school.

“I was trying to find a fun way to remember the stuff,” she said. “There are six steps that have been codified by the World Health Organization, but they’re complex and hard to remember.” 

Thampi said she came up with the idea to rewrite the lyrics to the nursery rhyme on World Hand Hygiene Day in May, when she was thinking about how to help people remember the technique. 

She said studies have shown that handwashing is effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea-related illnesses and respiratory diseases. 

“So I’d say it’s one of the most important and easiest things we can do.”

The video includes such often-overlooked steps as “wash the back,” “twirl the tips around” and “thumb attack,” which pays special attention to the first digit.

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