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

West Kootenay SAR crews rescue injured mountain biker near Rossland

Crews were called in to help after the biker seriously injured himself at around noon Saturday

Nelson teachers union president worried about members ahead of return to classes

Carla Wilson says there are a lot of questions remaining

Pop-up drive-in theatre shows Only in Nelson

The event was a collaboration between the Civic Theatre and Kootenay Co-op Radio

Suspected fentanyl and cocaine seized during RCMP search in Castlegar

Two men were taken into police custody during the search warrant

Morning start: This is the fastest growing city in the Kootenays

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Monday, May 25

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

COVID-19 checkpoints ‘up to them,’ Bonnie Henry says of remote B.C. villages

Support local tourism economy, but only if you’re invited in

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Most Read