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Lab test provider LifeLabs says it paid ransom to secure stolen data


UPDATED

TORONTO — Government privacy commissioners are investigating a data breach at LifeLabs, one of Canada’s largest medical services companies, after hackers gained access to the personal information of up to 15 million customers.

“The vast majority of these customers are in B.C. and Ontario, with relatively few customers in other locations,” said LifeLabs chief executive Charles Brown in a public statement issued Tuesday.

LifeLabs said that the compromised database included health card numbers, names, email addresses, login, passwords and dates of birth but said it wasn’t sure how many of the files were accessed during the breach.

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However, it said the hackers did obtain 2016 test results from as many as 85,000 Ontario residents.

The company said it hired cyber security experts to secure the system and determine the scope of the attack, and paid an undisclosed amount of money as ransom to secure the information.

LifeLabs also said there was no evidence that test results from outside Ontario were compromised.

Privacy commissioners from B.C. and Ontario said they would examine the scope of the breach, the circumstances leading to it, and what measures LifeLabs could have taken to prevent and contain it.

LifeLabs contacted provincial officials about the breach on Nov. 1 — but didn’t make a public announcement until nearly seven weeks later on Dec. 17.

“Our independent offices are committed to thoroughly investigating this breach,” B.C. privacy commissioner Michael McEvoy said in a joint statement with his Ontario counterpart.

“Public institutions and health-care organizations are ultimately responsible for ensuring that any personal information in their custody and control is secure and protected at all times,” Ontario privacy commissioner Brian Beamish said.

The company says it is offering customers one free year of protection that includes dark web monitoring and identity theft insurance.

The incident is only the latest data breach to affect Canadian consumers.

The Desjardins Group revealed in December that a data breach in June hit 4.2 million members, all of its clients.

The Bank of Montreal and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce both suffered data breaches last May. Equifax announced in 2017 that a massive data breach compromised the personal information and credit card details of 143 million Americans and 100,000 Canadians.

In August, some 20,000 Air Canada customers learned their personal data may have been compromised following a breach in the airline’s mobile app.

In the past three years, millions of consumers have been affected by hacks against a panoply of companies including British Airways, Uber, Deloitte, Ashley Madison and Walmart.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2019.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2019