A suspected cyberattack on Newfoundland and Labrador’s health network has led to the cancellation of thousands of medical appointments across the province and forced some local health systems to revert to paper.
The “brain” of the network’s data centre, operated by Bell, has been damaged, including the main and backup computer systems, Health Minister John Haggie told reporters Monday. He said the “possible cyberattack by a third party” was first detected Saturday.
“It has taken out the brain of the data centre …. Our main aim here now is to mitigate the effect and maintain some continuity of service for the people of this province,” Haggie said.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Eastern Health region was hardest hit, leading to the cancellation Monday of all non-emergency medical appointments and procedures. Eastern Health CEO David Diamond said his agency has lost access to everything from basic email to diagnostic images and lab results, adding that non-urgent medical procedures are likely to be cancelled again on Tuesday.
Physicians, he added, have told him that without X-rays and CT scans being available electronically, it would be safer to delay appointments and procedures for several days. “We can’t handle the same volume in a paper-based system, so it’s safer to reschedule,” he said.
The health authorities in western Newfoundland and Labrador hadn’t been hit as hard, while the health authority in central Newfoundland was affected but less severely than in the eastern region, Haggie said.
Haggie, however, decline to comment about whether the damage was due to what’s known as a ransomware attack – in which hackers demand payment in exchange for restoring access. The minister would only say the investigation is ongoing.
Steve Waterhouse, a former information systems security officer with the Defence Department, said in an interview Monday the damage to Newfoundland and Labrador’s health system bears all the hallmarks of a ransomware attack. Health systems are prime targets for cyberattacks because they are essential services and the public can’t tolerate losing access to medical care for extended periods, he said.
“I believe it is ransomware that got inside of that (computer system) and crippled the operation …. It’s highly probable it’s ransomware, as this (phenomenon) is spreading across the country,” Waterhouse said.
Gov’t agency warns infrastructure at risk from cyberattacks
The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security – a division of the federal government’s Communications Security Establishment – issued an alert in October 2020 warning of an increasing risk of cyberattacks using ransomware on Canadian health systems.
Evan Koronewski, a spokesman for theCommunications Security Establishment, said in an email, “We assess that cybercriminals will almost certainly continue to jeopardize patient outcomes and wider public health efforts by deploying ransomware for financial gain against a vulnerable health sector, including the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain.”
He added that the cyber centre has noticed a rise in threats related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the threat of ransomware attacks on the country’s front-line health-care and medical research facilities. He said cybercriminals have shifted toward targeting high-value, large-scale enterprises, known as “targeted ransomware” or “big game hunting.”
In October 2020, reports indicated Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital had to postpone appointments after a cyberattack forced the local health board to disconnect its servers from the internet. Earlier that year, hackers damaged the computer systems of three Ontario hospitals, using malware known as “Ryuk.”
Haggie said it’s too soon to know if his province’s security measures had shortcomings or failed to heed the federal warnings, and he said there will be a post-mortem to examine these issues.
“We’ll find out, but it won’t be tomorrow,” he said.
Sarah Stoodley, the province’s minister of digital government, was asked by the Opposition during question period on Monday whether the province has a policy on paying hackers a ransom to remove the malicious software.
“I’m not aware of such policies, but from a security and information technology perspective, even if we had policies, I wouldn’t recommend we table them in the House of Assembly,” she replied.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2021.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Stores kick off Black Friday but pandemic woes linger – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Anne D’innocenzio, The Associated Press
Published Friday, November 26, 2021 5:32AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 26, 2021 3:16PM EST
NEW YORK (AP) – On this year’s Black Friday, things almost seem normal.
Malls and stores report decent-sized crowds, if not the floods of people that used to fight over the latest toys and electronics – online shopping is much too common for that now, and discounts are both more subdued and spread out over the weeks leading up to Christmas, on both websites and in stores.
But out-of-stock items due to supply crunches, higher prices for gas and food, and labor shortages that make it more difficult to respond to customers are also causing frustrations for shoppers.
The country’s largest mall, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, reported overall traffic numbers at its opening on Friday were up by more than double compared to a year ago.
“We had a fantastic start,” said Mall of America senior vice president Jill Renslow.
Like many retailers and restaurants, however, staffing issues affected the mall and it had to trim the hours it was open.
Black Friday sales in stores and online were up 12% by mid-morning, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending broadly across cards and cash. That was tracking below its 20% growth forecast for the day.
Overall holiday sales are expected to grow this year. For the November and December period, the National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, predicts that sales will increase between 8.5% and 10.5%. Holiday sales increased about 8% in 2020 when shoppers, locked down during the early part of the pandemic, spent their money on pajamas and home goods.
While Black Friday has a strong hold on Americans’ imaginations as a day of crazed shopping, it has lost stature over the last decade as stores opened on Thanksgiving and shopping shifted to Amazon and other online retailers. Stores diluted the day’s importance further by advertising Black Friday sales on more and more days.
The pandemic led many retailers to close stores on Thanksgiving Day and push discounts on their websites, starting as early as October. That’s continuing this year, although there are deals in stores as well.
At the Fashion Centre mall in the northern Virginia suburbs, window signs advertised 50% off boots at Aldo, 40% off full price items at J.Crew, and 30% off at Forever 21. At the Capital Mall in Olympia, Washington, stores advertised sales of 35% to 50% off.
Big retailers like Walmart aren’t blasting “doorbuster” deals in their ads, said DealNews.com analyst Julie Ramhold. Meanwhile, smaller chains like Victoria’s Secret and Gap are having harder time managing supply issues. Victoria’s Secret said recently that 45% of its holiday merchandise is still stuck in transit.
Supply chain hold-ups are a major concern this year, and both stores and shoppers are trying to find workarounds. Some of the biggest U.S. retailers are rerouting goods to less congested ports, even chartering their own vessels.
Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said the company is prepared. “We are deep and we are ready,” he said, noting inventory levels are up 20% compared to last year. “We are in good shape.” But many sales floors looked different than in years past, when tall piles of merchandise used to be on display. At Macy’s in Manhattan, gone were the shoes stacked so high shoppers couldn’t reach them.
Fears of not being able to get the items they want helped drive people back to physical stores.
Tim Clayburn was shopping at Fashion Centre in Pentagon City, Virginia on Friday morning because he wanted to make sure he could get the gifts he wanted for his relatives.
“Everyone is so worried about not having things shipped to you on time,” he said. “I’d rather just get stuff in person so I don’t have to worry about the shipping.”
That didn’t work out for everyone, though. Christian MacDonald, the first person in a line of about 75 people waiting for a Costa Mesa, California Target store to open, came away empty-handed.
“I came here because I figured since it was Black Friday, they’d have the new Switch OLED in stock, but they didn’t,” said MacDonald, who waited an hour and a half to get in for the sought-after Nintendo video game console. “So I’m just going to go home, I guess.”
Still, experts believe Black Friday will again be the busiest shopping day this year. U.S. retail sales, excluding auto and gas, from this past Monday through Sunday are expected to increase 10% from last year and 12% from the 2019 holiday season, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse.
Several malls on Long Island were busier than last year, but there was no frenzy, said Marshall Cohen of market research firm NPD Group. In the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, New Jersey, lines formed outside Pandora and Bath & Body Works around noon, while some small shops were largely empty. At Fashion Centre mall in the D.C. suburbs in the afternoon, Macy’s was jammed with people, making it difficult to move around the store, while Forever 21 security guards had to help clear congestion. Across the country, there were roughly three dozen people in line at a Denver-area Best Buy when doors opened at 5 a.m., said shopper Edmond Kunath, which he found underwhelming.
“It is amazing how small the crowd is here this morning,” said Kunath, who was looking for deals on Apple AirPods headphones and a hard drive.
Retail workers are worried about their safety because of frustrated shoppers and thin staffing, said Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who said stores should provide security and training on how to handle irate shoppers.
One employee at the Zara in Fashion Centre, who declined to give his name, said the store seemed understaffed and he had been stressed all morning. “This is the craziest I’ve seen things in a long time,” he said. Zara’s store manager declined an interview, saying he was too busy.
At Macy’s in Manhattan, the pandemic remained in sight – employees wore masks and many shoppers did too – but there was also a sense of celebrating the fun of shopping, of things returning to how they used to be.
Carol Claridge of Bourne, England, has been coming to New York for Thanksgiving-week shopping for 15 years, but skipped it last year because of the pandemic. The U.S. reopened to travelers from the U.K. earlier in November when it lifted pandemic travel bans.
“We had to wait a long time to do this,” said Claridge, who was looking at beauty gift sets on the first floor of Macy’s with a friend. “We are picking up anything we see that we like. We call it our annual shopping outing.”
Shoppers are expected to pay on average between 5% to 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, TVs and others purchases on Black Friday this year compared with last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior sector advisor at Allianz Research, with the biggest price increases on TVs. That’s because whatever discounts available will be applied to goods that already cost more.
Aniva Pawlowski got to Macy’s just ahead of the 6 a.m. opening with plans to buy shoes and coats. Shopping on Thanksgiving Day had been a family tradition, but she stayed home last year and just shopped online. Worries about shortages drove the New Yorker to shop in person and she plans to spend about $1,000 on holiday shopping, similar to years past, even though she’s concerned about rising costs for gas and food.
“Everything is expensive,” she said.
Online shopping remains huge, and sales are expected to rise 7% for the week after the massive 46% gain a year ago, when many shoppers stayed home, according to Mastercard. For the overall holiday season, online sales should increase 10% from a year ago, compared with a 33% increase last year, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index.
“What the pandemic did for retail was, it forced them to be better digital retailers,” said Cohen of the NPD Group. That means the day after Thanksgiving is no longer what it was. “With that comes the shortfall of Black Friday.”
David Zalubowski from Lone Tree, Colorado; Parker Purifoy from Arlington, Virginia; Manuel Valdes in Olympia, Washington; Bryan Gallion from Wayne, New Jersey; and Eugene Garcia from Costa Mesa, California contributed to this report.
S&P/TSX composite down nearly 500 points as COVID variant worries rattle market – Yahoo Canada Finance
TORONTO — Canada’s main stock index was down nearly 500 points as the price of oil fell more than 10 per cent and U.S. stock markets tumbled lower amid worries about a new COVID variant in southern Africa.
The S&P/TSX composite index was down 495.78 points at 21,117.40.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 905.04 points at 34,899.34 in a shortened trading day following the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. The S&P 500 index closed down 106.84 points at 4,594.62, while the Nasdaq composite finished down 353.57 points at 15,491.66.
The Canadian dollar traded for 78.33 cents US compared with 79.03 cents US on Thursday.
The January crude oil contract was down US$9.54 at US$68.85 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was up 21 cents at US$5.32 per mmBTU.
The December gold contract was up US$1.50 at US$1,785.80 an ounce and the March copper contract was down 16 cents at US$4.31 a pound.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2021.
Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)
The Canadian Press
Stock markets roiled anew by fears about emerging coronavirus variant – CBC.ca
Global stock markets and oil prices tumbled Friday after South Africa identified a new, potentially fast-spreading coronavirus variant and the European Union proposed suspending air travel from the region.
The 27-member EU proposed a mass travel suspension to member governments after South Africa said the so-called Nu variant was spreading in its most populous province.
Britain promptly banned flights from South Africa and five nearby countries. Austria imposed a 10-day lockdown while Italy restricted activity by unvaccinated people. Americans were advised by their government to avoid Germany and Denmark. Belgium and Israel have already reported a handful of people who have tested positive to the new variant, and the slew of data points has added up to a flurry of uncertainty.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the TSX Composite Index were sharply down in premarket trading and held those losses into the trading day. Nearing midday, all three were down by about two per cent.
“This news has completely overshadowed early anecdotal reports of strong in-person and online traffic for Black Friday sales,” said Colin Cieszynski with SIA Wealth Management in Toronto.
Friday would normally be a quiet day on U.S. stock markets because of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, as stock markets in New York are scheduled to close at 1 p.m.
Oil and travel companies hit hardest
That thin trading could potentially make market anxieties worse as there is a smaller pool of buyers and sellers available to offset outliers.
“What you’re seeing is the absence of a lot of active managers in the U.S. and a lot of concerned panic selling … around the world,” said Dennis Mitchell, CEO of Starlight Capital, in an interview.
The VIX — which is known as Wall Street’s “fear index” because it measures volatility — spiked by more than 40 per cent to above 26 points. That’s its highest level since January 2021, before vaccination campaigns started to ramp up.
Anything related to energy or travel and tourism is being hit especially hard as investors digest the prospect of another round of limitations on international travel.
The North American benchmark oil price known as West Texas Intermediate lost more than $9 US, or more than 12 per cent, to trade just below $70 US a barrel.
Jeremy McCrea, managing director at Raymond James Energy Research, says while the anxiety is real, some of the oil selling is coming from traders just locking in profits from the recent run while they can.
“Given how much oil prices have moved up … there’s a lot of profit taking, a lot of speculators saying, ‘I’m not quite sure what this really means,’ ” he said in an interview.
“Wait a couple of weeks until we get a better idea of what this actually means.”
McCrea said the oil market has just had an especially volatile few weeks, first with OPEC trying to ratchet prices higher by slowing production increase, then by the Biden administration releasing millions of barrels to have the opposite effect.
With fears now of a new variant that could curb global demand for oil, he said it shows there are “still a lot of big factors that can shift prices here quite a bit.”
Air Canada shares lost more than eight per cent while those of cruise line Carnival lost 11. Hotel chains Hilton and Marriott were both down by more than eight per cent.
“These announcements have sparked a sell-off in travel-related stocks (airlines, cruise lines, hotels etc.) and has sparked a rally in stay-at-home and vaccine stocks,” Cieszynski said.
Pfizer shares rose nearly seven per cent while Moderna shares jumped more than 22 per cent.
“Today’s price action and abrupt moves were a good reminder of a need to avoid virus complacency into 2022,” currency analyst Audrey Childe-Freeman with Bloomberg Intelligence said in a note to clients.
Lisa Kramer, a professor of finance at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, says investors are reacting with a fear similar to what happened at the start of the pandemic.
“It isn’t uncommon when we have dramatic news come out for some people to overreact,” she said in an interview. “And it doesn’t take a lot of people panicking for markets to react strongly.”
Bitcoin slumps, too
Cryptocurrencies sold off heavily as investors ran toward things like gold, bonds and the U.S. dollar that are perceived to be safer stores of value.
“In times like this, we get a true sense of what investors consider to be real, reliable safe havens and bitcoin is off eight per cent today, which has delivered a fatal blow to its safe-haven credentials, putting an end to another crypto myth that has surfaced over the years despite there being zero evidence to back it up,” analyst Craig Erlam with foreign exchange firm Oanda said.
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