BMO is warning that “fraudsters” from outside of the country may have accessed certain personal and financial information of some of its customers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Hackers say they have client data from BMO and CIBC

The banks say they are conducting a thorough investigation

Two of Canada’s biggest banks warned Monday that up to 90,000 customers may have had certain personal and financial information compromised after “fraudsters” contacted both banks claiming to have obtained sensitive data.

The Bank of Montreal said hackers contacted the bank on Sunday claiming to be in possession of the personal information of fewer than 50,000 customers, however it did not elaborate on the type of data they accessed. The bank believes the attack originated from outside of Canada.

“We are conducting a thorough investigation,” spokesman Paul Gammal said in an emailed statement on Monday.

“We became aware of unverified claims that customer personal and financial data may have been accessed by a fraudster and a threat was made to make it public. We are working with the relevant authorities,” he said. BMO did not say whether the attacker asked for money in an extortion attempt as they have done in other high-profile breaches.

Gammal said the two hacks appear to be related. Royal Bank, Scotiabank and Toronto-Dominion Bank said they have no indication they have been affected.

CIBC’s direct banking brand Simplii Financial also warned Monday that “fraudsters” may have electronically accessed certain personal and account information for approximately 40,000 clients. Simplii said it received a claim on Sunday that their clients’ data may have been accessed.

“We are investigating to determine the validity of the claims and the type of the information that may have been accessed,” said CIBC spokesman Tom Wallis in an emailed statement.

Wallis said he could not comment on whether the hackers had attempted to extort CIBC “except to say that it is our practice not to pay ransom demands as it encourage further fraudulent activity.”

Simplii has since implemented additional online security measures such as enhanced online fraud monitoring. The bank said there is no indication that clients who bank through CIBC have been affected.

Both BMO and CIBC said they will contact clients, and recommended that customers monitor their accounts and notify their financial institution about any suspicious activity.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau has spoken to the chief executives of the affected institutions, according to ministry spokeswoman Jocelyn Sweet.

“We are monitoring the situation closely with the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions,” she said in an emailed statement. “The situation is being investigated by the institutions in collaboration with law enforcement.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner said Monday that it has been notified by both financial institutions, but that it is not launching a formal investigation at this point.

“We are working with the organizations to better understand what occurred and what they are doing to mitigate the situation,” said spokeswoman Valerie Lawton in an email.

Financial institutions are attacked more than any other type of business or organization in the world, largely because the “bad guys are looking to make financial gain,” said David Masson, country manager for Canada with cybersecurity firm Darktrace.

It’s common for the target of a cyberattack to learn of the incident from someone outside of their organization, such as a customer, a third-party supplier, law enforcement officials or an intelligence service, he added.

“Or, and it’s not unusual, the bad guys run up and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got your stuff, give us your money or we’re going to disclose it’,” said Masson.

Consumers need to do their own due diligence after such an incident to limit any potential losses, said David Fewer, the director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa.

Consumers “should be concerned,” given the kind of details the banks have about their clients, he said.

“This is important financial information, and a lot of damage can occur… Even if it’s just account information, and not the more sensitive identity document information, for example, that’s still significant.”

Simplii said Monday that clients who are victims of fraud because of the issue will receive 100 per cent of the money lost from the affected bank account.

CIBC launched Simplii in November and absorbed the accounts of some two million President’s Choice Financial account holders. CIBC had provided the back-end banking services for PC Financial for nearly 20 years, but last August the bank struck a deal with PC’s parent company Loblaw to go their separate ways.

The potential data breaches reported by Simplii and BMO on Monday are the latest cybersecurity incidents involving Canadians.

Last fall, credit reporting service Equifax notified the public that hackers accessed or stole the personal data of 145.5 million U.S. customers and 19,000 Canadians. In January, Bell Canada warned some of its customers that their information, such as names and email addresses, had been illegally accessed in a data breach.

In November, ride-sharing company Uber said hackers stole names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of 815,000 Canadian riders and drivers as part of a worldwide data breach.

New federal data breach regulations that would require mandatory reporting of security breaches are set to take effect on Nov. 1.

The regulations require organizations to determine if a data breach poses a risk to any individual whose information was involved and then to notify the federal privacy commissioner and affected individuals “as soon as feasible”. Previously, companies which had been hacked had been alerting the public on their own timeline.

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

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Pumpkin carver features police officer killed in off-duty assault in Nelson

Abbotsford’s Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

Near the top of Stanley Street in Nelson, a newly installed waterline will soon be joined to an old one that runs into the city from Selous Creek near Ymir, until now used only as emergency backup. The new line will take Selous Creek water to the Mountain Station Reservoir as a more permanent addition to the water supply. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Completion of Selous Creek line improves Nelson’s water supply

Project adds a new source of treated water

Get some help writing your novel at the Nelson Library online this month. Photo: Marcus Aurelius/Pexels
CHECK THIS OUT: Write that novel!

The Nelson Library can help you during National Novel Writing Month

The bobsled race has traditionally been a staple event at the carnival. File photo
Upcoming Rossland Winter Carnival cancelled due to COVID-19 crisis

This is the first time the carnival won’t be held in decades

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

The Kimberley Dynamiters' next two exhibition games have been postponed due to an individual testing positive for COVID-19. Paul Rodgers file.
Member of Kimberley Dynamiters tests positive for COVID-19

Exhibition games in Fernie, Creston postponed

Most Read