More than 70 representatives from regional government, as well as experts, gathered this week in Avonmore, Ontario, to gain a better understanding of the threats of cyber crime, and train for online emergencies that could impact local municipalities.

The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SDG) organized ‘Technology Tornado’, an all-day conference that focused on learning about the threats to municipal infrastructure from would-be hackers and criminals, while also training to ward off online attacks.

Representatives from SDG Counties, each of its local municipalities, The Nation, the City of Ottawa, the City of Cornwall, Cornwall Police
Service, Cornwall Fire Department, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit and the Canadian Red Cross worked through scenarios involving mock attacks against IT and mechanical infrastructure. Emergency Management Ontario was also on-hand to offer insights.

“This event started small but grew into a large partnership involving dozens of community partners,” said Katherine Beehler, training and emergency management coordinator with SDG Counties. “What we realized is that we all have a role to play in securing our online infrastructure – and that we’re all accessing tools and policies to further strengthen our vigilance against outside threats.”

Of particular note were presentations by the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS), as well as The Nation municipality. CCCS offered an in-depth presentation on how municipalities and individuals can institute safeguards that protect against online threats. The Nation was the victim of a ransomware attack in 2019 that resulted in an infection of the municipality’s network.

“We strived to provide real-world examples of the threats, and consequences, that occur everyday against businesses, individuals and governments,” said Beehler. “Given the number of participants at our event, there is an appetite among local leaders to ensure we maintain our safeguards against these threats.”

Municipalities in Ontario must complete at least one mock emergency each year to remain compliant with provincial regulations. Participants at this week’s County event ran through four emergency scenarios that involved ransomware attacks against IT networks, as well as infrastructure.