N.L. Premier Andrew Furey still mum on details more than a month after cyberattack

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OTTAWA — Though it’s been more than a month, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey is still declining to provide details about the cyberattack that took out his province's health-care networks.

His government hasn’t said whether the attack detected on Oct. 30 was a ransomware operation, nor whether the hackers asked for payment.

Furey was no more forthcoming Monday as he faced media questions in Ottawa after a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"We do believe that this is a provincial security issue, and that's why we're not commenting, frankly, extensively and publicly about it,” he told reporters. “That's the advice that we're being given."

The attack saw personal health information breached for patients in three of the province's four regional health authorities and initially forced the cancellation of thousands of procedures, including chemotherapy appointments. It also temporarily reduced operations in the province’s largest health authority to a pen-and-paper system.

Many systems have since been restored, and that work is ongoing, Furey said Monday, adding: “There's some disruption, but patients are getting the care that they need right now."

Some cybersecurity experts have said it’s the worst cyberattack in Canadian history, as well as a national security issue that deserves a robust federal response. However, Ottawa has also remained largely silent about the issue.

Furey said Monday the attack is “a bit of a national issue” and that he’s received support from the Communications Security Establishment and the Department of National Defence. He also said the first thing he did when he met with Trudeau was thank him for the federal support offered throughout the ordeal.

Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister John Haggie had previously said officials were short on specifics in part because they were being monitored by the perpetrators of the attack. Furey would not say if that is still the case.

Furey met with Trudeau to discuss "clean energy, climate change, health care, immigration and reconciliation," an email from Furey's spokeswoman said. The two also discussed the $5.2-billion refinancing deal for the troubled Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project in Labrador. The agreement in principle announced in July would help Newfoundland and Labrador pay for the costs coming due when the project is fully operational after years of delays and a near doubling of its initial price tag of $7.2 billion to $13.1 billion.

Furey said Monday the agreement is "progressing toward completion." He would not say if a final deal is expected by the end of the year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2021.

— By Sarah Smellie in St. John's.

The Canadian Press