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

Summerland golfers play all net scores event

Summerland Senior Men’s Club held event on June 4

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip appeals for living-donor kidney transplant

Okanagan Nation Alliance Grand Chief has chronic kidney disease

Column: Penticton Regional Hospital returning to ‘new normal’

If we’ve learned anything over the last few months, it’s how important good health is in our lives.

Olympic athlete sends shout-out to Cawston Primary students

Canadian Olympic sprinter Khamica Bingham participated in one of the school’s long-time traditions

Penticton Search and Rescue respond to six calls in less than a week

Two hikers rescued in early morning search near Greyback Lake latest in series of searches

Second video of Kelowna RCMP arrest shows Mountie punching suspect at least 10 times

The officer involved in the incident has been reassigned to administrative duties

New video evidence in Surrey man’s West Kelowna murder trial shown in court

The defence closed its case following the playing of the video in court, marking the end of the evidentiary phase of the trial

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Community backlash over Black Lives Matter rally in Kelowna

Some members of Kelowna’s black community stated they don’t support Friday’s rally

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Flooding prompts closure of parks along Shuswap and Mara lakes

Boaters asked to respect No Wake policy protecting properties along water

Black Lives Matter protester stands alone in Vernon

Rumblings of a citywide protest continue across social media platforms

Cyclist in serious condition after being hit by dump truck in Kelowna

The woman sustained injuries to one of her legs, according to RCMP

Most Read