Disaster! Keep it Safe.

The British Library and Toronto Public Library are both dealing with ransomware attacks.

At the British Library “disruption to certain services is now expected to persist for several months.”

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) says access to its system will remain down until the new year as a result of a cyberattack in late October.

Many Canadian public libraries use Bibliocommons, a Canadian-owned, Toronto-based company that serves hundreds of libraries internationally, including Ottawa’s and many others in Canada, but not the TPL.  That must make them a big-enough fish to attract ransomware attacks.

While we can only watch and hope the organizations we relay on are resilient to the criminal attacks, how vulnerable are you? How vulnerable are entirely volunteer-based genealogical societies? Faced with an attack, what would you do?

Forewarned is forearmed, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (or whatever the metric equivalent is!). Beware of common methods of phishing through downloads of malicious software or legitimate looking sites asking for passwords.

You’ve probably seen advice like keeping your operating system, apps and other software up to date a million times. You know to use strong passwords, not reuse them, and enable two-factor authentication where available. 

Other advice is to use reputable antivirus and anti-malware software and back up your data regularly. Remember LOCKSS – lots of copies keeps stuff safe. Backup the gedcom for your genealogy database and other unique data on the cloud, on a USB drive (and then unplug and store it away), and give a duplicate to a relative or friend.

If you do get hit by a ransonware attack, or more likely a hardware failure, you’ll be in a good position, with a lot of work, to recover.

Or would you enjoy the task of re-researching your family tree

If you have a personal website there are various option for backing it up. This site is run on WordPress for which there are various convenient backup options. Make it a priority to find out how safe you are already, and look at options to protect your site further.


While researching this item I came across a bookThe Ransomware Hunting Team: a Band of Misfits’ Improbable Crusade to Save the World From Cybercrime. It might be a fun read. Eight copies are available at the Ottawa Public Library.


One Reply to “Disaster! Keep it Safe.”

  1. Such awful information for library users. I was aware of the problem at TPL as many family & friends live there. No ‘holds’ can be put on books and for those that cannot make it to their branch, that is a real problem.

    As for the British Library, I did not know of this reading The Guardian UK daily. Thanks for telling us how careful we must all be and also about LOCKSS, John.

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