The biggest data breaches in Canada and their impact on businesses

The digital landscape is evolving faster than anyone could have predicted and so are data breaches. As newer technologies continue to emerge, hackers have steadily improved their sophistication. From the Equifax breach to the Yahoo saga, you can easily find numerous cases of data breaches on the internet.

This article offers you insights into some of the biggest data breaches in Canada so far. You can also find out how these businesses were impacted over time. You should also expect some useful tips on how you can prevent data breaches in your small business.

Top 4 data breaches in Canada

Before delving into the top data breaches in Canada, you should understand the law surrounding the issue in general. While it was legal to avoid reporting data breaches in the past, everything changed in 2018. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) makes it compulsory for businesses to report breaches to the authorities.

Here are some of the top four data breaches in Canada and the impact it had on businesses.

Medicentres data breach

Founded in 1979, Medicentres Canada Inc is the largest group of clinics in the country. The company is trusted by millions of patients to provide reliable healthcare services. However, Medicentres disclosed in 2014 that some of their data had been exposed to cybercriminals. So how did this really happen?

In September 2013, a laptop belonging to a consultant who works with Medicentres was stolen. The laptop contained a database of 620,000 patients who had visited Medicentres clinics in Calgary and Edmonton. Patients were even more surprised that information about the breach only came to light about four months after in 2014.

Impact of the data breach on Medicentres

Years after the lost laptop and data breach, Medicentres continues to feel the impact of the incident. When some patients found out, a class-action lawsuit for $11 million was filed against the company. This case remained in the courts until July 2016 when a settlement was agreed upon. The courts decided that Medicentres should pay out just over $700,000 for credit repair services for those affected in 2016.

The deadline for claiming compensation from this settlement was November 2016. If you were affected by this breach, you’d be unable to make a new claim now. The damage to the healthcare provider’s reputation would remain at the forefront of patients’ minds for a long time.

Since this data breach, the government has made efforts to improve Canada’s health information act as well as its privacy law.

Desjardins Group’s credit unions’ data breach

You can generally consider the data breach against Desjardins as the biggest in Canada. The company was founded in 1900 and is the largest federation of credit unions in North America. The company announced that 4.2 million individual customers and 173,000 businesses were exposed in a data breach. This figure represented the credit union’s entire clientele base.

An employee unlawfully collected data from the company and leaked them to a third-party. When the data breach occurred, there was only one suspect – a former employee. Desjardins also confirmed that personal information like names, social insurance numbers, addresses and payment information was compromised in the breach.

The company claims that this wasn’t as a result of failure in their systems. Seeing that it was from an employee, we’ll let you be the judge.

Impact of the data breach on Desjardins Group

You’d have to be invincible to experience a data breach of this magnitude and not feel any impact. Since the breach, Desjardins has improved its identity protection and now offers all customers lifelong protection including access to Equifax. There’s also a class-action lawsuit in the works although it’s yet to be certified by a Judge. Certification by a Judge is a requirement before the case can proceed.

The increase in fraud lately has also been linked to this breach since the victims’ sensitive data were exposed. 

Lawmakers are yet to determine how to respond to this data breach. In response to the breach, some believe that more should be done and others claim that the group’s response so far has been satisfactory.

If you’re a Desjardins client, you can view the steps they’re taking to protect you and your data here. You can also find details on how you can access lifelong credit protection with Equifax there.

Capital One breach

Card services provider Capital One recently experienced a data breach that exposed sensitive information related to six million Canadians. The bank holding company disclosed the breach on July 30th, 2019 and noted that it includes one million social insurance numbers in Canada.

No login credentials were exposed during this breach. However, the kind of data compromised could be used to perpetrate havoc in the long term. The FBI subsequently caught the cybercriminal involved.

How did the data breach affect Capital One?

Apart from damage to reputation, the cost of managing the blowback from this incident would no doubt be heavy. For instance, all the customers involved have had to be notified since the breach occurred. The Card provider has also had to invest heavily in cybersecurity after the incident. 

Furthermore, there’s a class-action suit that was filed in Vancouver against Capital One. It’s still early days and the suit is yet to reach the settlement stage. If you’re a Capital One customer, you can check out all the facts related to this breach and what you can do to protect your data with them here.

TransUnion breach

Just like Equifax, TransUnion also recently experienced its own breach. The nature of the information compromised and the impact they could have on the victims’ lives in the long term are some of the reasons why this breach makes the list. TransUnion announced in October 2019 that an unauthorized party was able to access the credit information of around 37,000 Canadians.

The attacker used the login details of the Canadian Western Bank in accessing the data on TransUnion’s database. This is perhaps why you should consider stepping up your endpoint security efforts. To illustrate this, when Banks request your credit information from TransUnion or Equifax, they could potentially access your former addresses, social insurance number and even existing debt information. As a result, the type and amount of data exposed could vary greatly.

Impact of the data breach on TransUnion

While they claim the breach was not as a result of failure on the part of their systems, one can only wonder whether a firewall would have prevented the third-party from accessing the service even with genuine login credentials.

Although TransUnion continues to improve its security, there may still be some fines or penalties from the government or regulatory bodies. You can also expect their reputation to suffer greatly.

Overcoming data breaches in Canada with Abrisuite

If you own or run a small business, you’d agree that preventing data breaches is essential for your survival. With Abrisuite, you can expect cost-effective managed security services solutions that help protect your small business from data breaches. With or without an IT department, we can upgrade your security to enterprise-grade at a fraction of the cost.

Our ability to provide a security solution that includes endpoint protection and network monitoring easily sets us apart from others. Here’s an outline of some of the ways we can help you prevent data breaches in your small business.

  • Advanced firewall.
  • Intrusion detection and prevention services.
  • Endpoint protection via HIPS.
  • Security Operations Centre (SOC)
  • Network monitoring.
  • Anti-virus and Anti-malware. 

Closing thoughts

As you continue to guide your small business towards success, you’ll need to understand the importance of protecting your data. You’ll need to consciously aim to limit unauthorized exposure as well as understand the consequences of failing to do so. You’ll also need to recognize the value behind working with MSSPs to deliver a solution that’s custom-built specifically for you.

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