A women walks past the new rebranding sign of Freedom Mobile in Toronto on Thursday, November 24, 2016. Freedom Mobile says about 15,000 customers were affected by a security breach in a new system before the problem was fixed on April 23. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Freedom Mobile hit by data breach, company says up to 15,000 customers affected

It said the breach affected customers at 17 retail stores who opened or changed accounts

Freedom Mobile confirmed Tuesday it had a data security breach from late March to late April, but the wireless carrier said only about 15,000 customers were affected — far fewer than an outside research firm’s estimate.

The Calgary-based company — which operates networks in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia — was apparently warned of the breach by researchers at vpnMentor, which announced it to the press.

The vpnMentor report said two of its researchers, Noam Rotem and Ran Locar, had warned Freedom of their findings on April 17, 18 and 23 but didn’t get a response from the company until April 24.

“For ethical reasons, we didn’t download the database, so we don’t know exactly how many people were affected,” the blog said.

However, the blog was posted under the title “Report: Freedom Mobile Customer Data Breach Exposes 1.5 Million Customers” based on the assumption that hackers could access unencrypted data from all of Freedom’s customer base.

Freedom said in an emailed statement that “any reference to 1.5 million customers affected is inaccurate … “

The company said its investigation determined the breach began on March 25 and affected data processed by a new external third-party vendor, Apptium Technologies, that had been hired to streamline its retail customer support.

“The internal systems of Freedom Mobile or (parent) Shaw Communications were not compromised as part of this third-party vendor security exposure,” the company said in a statement.

It said the breach affected customers at 17 retail stores who opened or changed accounts as late as April 15 or made changes to opened accounts on April 16. It said the problem was fixed by April 23.

Freedom also said that it had found no evidence, as of Tuesday, that any data has been misused “and we are conducting a full forensic investigation to determine the full scope of impact.”

Valerie Lawton, of the federal privacy commissioner’s office, said in an email that it had received a breach report related to Freedom Mobile late Monday afternoon.

“Canada’s federal private sector privacy law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), includes confidentiality provisions and we don’t have further details to offer at this time,” Lawton said.

Under PIPEDA, which was most recently updated in November, private-sector organizations that control personal information must advise the privacy watchdog of breaches that pose a “real risk of significant harm” to individuals.

They must also notify affected individuals about the breaches and keep records.

READ MORE: Personal data of 34,000 medical marijuana patients accessed in data breach

READ MORE: 50 million Facebook accounts affected by security breach

However, the Canadian law — in contrast to the European Union’s year-old General Data Protection Regulation — provides more flexibility about when organizations inform the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

Asked why it didn’t disclose close the leak sooner, the company said it took time to verify the legitimacy of the warning and verify details with its third-party vendor.

David Paddon, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Family bond strengthened through mask-making

A B.C. Indigenous youth is making face masks for firefighters after having made some for family

Indigenous company to launch First Nations banking app

A national release of the OneFeather APP anticipated no later than this summer

FOREST INK: Ithaka Institute in Switzerland continues with biochar research

My experience to date with biochar was mainly its use as a… Continue reading

RANCH MUSINGS: Is isolation enough already? A view from real isolation

In so many ways, we are blessed with being different from them

BC Lacrosse Association makes difficult decision to cancel minor lacrosse season

Impacted teams include both the Quesnel Thunder and the Williams Lake Bighorns

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Most Read