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.

Just Posted

Sunshine Valley teens burning with promise

Possibly the youngest in B.C., Sunshine Valley trains 15- and 16-year-old firefighters

Figures reveal spike in highway traffic jams between Abbotsford and Langley

Nearly one in 20 westbound vehicles between Abbotsford and Langley clocked at under 60 km/h

Taser takedown in Chilliwack complex after incident gets violent

Male suspect became agitated under questioning and repeatedly punched an officer

Hang gliding video gives stunning view of Harrison and Fraser river confluence

Aerial view shows striking difference between two rivers as they meet

Young Chilliwack singer launches career with French classic

Deanne Ratzlaff performs as featured vocalist in La Vie en Rose in Chilliwack, London and Paris

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

UPDATE: One dead after house fire in rural Maple Ridge

Dewdney Trunk Road closed, traffic being re-routed

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

Highway 1 closed near Revelstoke

No estimated time for opening

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

Most Read