The discovery of a new strain of computer virus forced the City of Nanaimo to shut down its computer system Wednesday.
Per Kristensen, director of information technology, said a new variant of the Qakbot virus appeared worldwide Tuesday and showed up in city computers around noon the next day.
“The virus is categorized as severe and we are being very cautious,” he said. “The antivirus companies were not able to identify it and as soon as we were aware something got through our protection software, we shut our system down.”
Kristensen said the virus appears highly sophisticated, changing its signature to pass through a system multiple times.
“The good news is it doesn’t appear to do widespread damage, but gathers information to take back to its home,” he said. “It’s after passwords, bank accounts.”
The city first knew it had a problem when several errors started showing up on Internet browsers.
“We knew something was going on and by 1:30 [p.m.] we knew we had an issue and shut the system down immediately,” said Kristensen. “We believe nothing has been lost because the city’s link to the outside world was broken.”
Protection of the public’s personal information is a priority and the computer systems will not be turned on until that can be assured, he said.
The public can still access the city’s website for some information, but nothing is being updated into the internal system.
The cost in dealing with the virus is staff time and productivity.
Information technology staff worked on identifying and removing the virus until 1:30 a.m. Thursday and was back at 6 a.m.
“The bigger issue is lost productivity,” said Kristensen. “We can’t do building inspections, our word processing, financial system and property services are all shutdown. But, the 911 system is working fine.”
Anyone needing to contact the city can reach departments through direct telephone lines or the 205-754-4251 general number.