Agriculture and Land Minister Bloyce Thompson understands full well the frustration many farmers are feeling after some of their financial information was compromised in a ransomware attack on the provincial government computer system.

A dairy farmer by profession, his information was included among the data posted on a hacking website in a failed attempt to get the province to pay to have the system restored. Provincial government officials noted in a statement the virus was active on the government system for approximately 90 minutes on February 23 before it was contained.

More than two weeks later, the provincial government computer system was still experiencing problems. Thompson said in an interview he could not go into specifics about the attack but said his department has been busy contacting all of the impacted producers.

"Technology is a great tool to use but it can also be a double edged sword," the minister said. "These hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated all the time."

Thompson said it is obviously a concern anytime the personal information of Islanders is breached. He said while many producers contacted by the department in the wake of the breach were certainly concerned, "they were very understanding of the fact we are doing everything we can to rectify the problem and make sure it doesn't happen again."

A statement from the province indicates there is no reason to believe any personal information had left the network. The attack appears to have originated outside of the country and the RCMP is investigating the incident.

"In cyberspace, you don't see your attacker," Thompson said. "We are working through it the best we can and certainly anybody with concerns can call the department. We have a great staff here who are committed to helping our farmers every day."

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