Hackers Attack LifeLabs and Hold 15 Million Canadian Health Records


Hackers have launched one of the most sophisticated attacks in 2019 on Canadian Lab diagnostic and testing services company, the LifeLabs, with about 15 million Canadian health records suspected to have been accessed.

Details of the attack have not been made available to the public as investigation is ongoing. However, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia (OIPC), and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) revealed that the hackers made their way into the company’s system, obtained data and demanded a ransom.

It was reported that the hacker accessed the names, addresses, emails, login, passwords, lab test results, health card numbers, and date of birth of 15 million customers. According to the report, the hackers may have encrypted the Canadian health records on the computer, making it inaccessible. In this case, the only way to retrieve the data is by paying a ransom to obtain the decryption key.

Canadian health records

Image Source: www.financialexpress.com

It was revealed that the Lifelabs have paid the ransom, and successfully retrieved the Canadian health records. However, it is unknown whether the hackers still have a copy of the data to blackmail them in the future. If the Canadian health records  was encrypted, and the company paid ransom to get access to them, then it’s obvious they had no backup.

According to the police advice, no individual or company should compromise to paying a ransom when hackers obtain sensitive data. They suggest that the appropriate agency should be contacted instead of going by the demand of the hacker. The idea is that hackers are most likely to attack the same institution again when they easily obtain ransom in their first attempt. Also, it is important for companies to back up their data in order to have a copy of an encrypted file since hackers do not alert before they launch an attack.

Lifelabs may have possibly been hit by a ransomware attack through a phishing email. This is a possible scenario as hackers mostly need the unconscious help of an insider to access data. By sending a phishing email with a malicious link, clicking on the link may give the hacker a direct access to the Canadian health records of the customers. Most of these can be prevented by observing basic cybersecurity guidelines including “not clicking on suspicion email links, backing up data and updating cybersecurity tools to the latest released.”

The latest update from the Lifelabs health records breach is that the company has offered 12-months protection to all the 15 million affected customers. This includes dark web monitoring and identity theft insurance through TransUnion. In addition, the company has also dedicated a toll-free helpline for affected customers to call for their activation code to claim their insurance offer.

As claimed by the report, thousands of customers flooded the helpline claiming they were being disconnected or speaking to unprepared staff while others are being bounced between customer service representatives.
Despite the efforts put in place by the Lifelabs team to assist the affected customers, there have been a series of complaints concerning the operations.

Canadian health records

Image Source: www.blog.cobin.com

Some of the affected customers claim they are not able to change their Lifelabs password. Others have also shown their dissatisfaction with the company paying the ransom as there is no guarantee that the hackers do not have copies of the breached Canadian health records. The Lifelabs responded to the complaints by expanding its helpline hours of operation, but some customers still claim they cannot reach the helpline main number.

A data breach involving health records have been recorded on multiple times in 2019, with cybercriminals seeking to either sell the obtained data cheaply on the dark web, or demand for ransom from the affected company.

It is expected that the company will provide a good explanation concerning the worries of the affected customers asking whether the hackers still have a copy of their Canadian health records. Also, it is expected that the official details of the data breach and how it happened would be made available to the public domain anytime soon.

Source: The Conversation

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