Hackers crack 15M LifeLabs accounts, obtain lab results and health card numbers

Dec 17 2019, 11:28 am

Following what it calls “a recent cyber security-attack” involving “unauthorized access” to its computer systems, LifeLabs released an open letter to its customers on Tuesday, detailing the incident and outlining steps it said it has taken to prevent these types of situations in the future.

The letter comes after LifeLabs reported a potential cyberattack on their computer systems on November 1 of this year, which the company said affected the personal information of approximately 15 million LifeLab customers, primarily in Ontario and BC. The information included names, addresses, emails, customer logins and passwords, health card numbers and lab tests.

Now, officials said a co-ordinated Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC)/Ontario IPC investigation will examine the scope of the breach, the circumstances leading to it and what, if any, measures Lifelabs could have taken to prevent and contain the breach.

“An attack of this scale is extremely troubling,” said Brian Beamish, information and privacy commissioner of Ontario. “I know it will be very distressing to those who may have been affected. This should serve as a reminder to all institutions, large and small, to be vigilant.”

Michael McEvoy, information and privacy commissioner for BC, echoed Beamish’s thoughts.

“I am deeply concerned about this matter,” he said. “The breach of sensitive personal health information can be devastating to those who are affected.”

As such, he continued, “our independent offices are committed to thoroughly investigating this breach. We will publicly report our findings and recommendations once our work is complete.”

In the meantime, LifeLabs President and CEO Charles Brown has released an open letter to LifeLabs customers:

The full text of this letter is below:

To our customers:

Through proactive surveillance, LifeLabs recently identified a cyber-attack that involved unauthorized access to our computer systems with customer information that could include name, address, email, login, passwords, date of birth, health card number and lab test results.

Personally, I want to say I am sorry that this happened. As we manage through this issue, my team and I remain focused on the best interests of our customers. You entrust us with important health information, and we take that responsibility very seriously.

We have taken several measures to protect our customer information, including:

  • Immediately engaging with world-class cyber security experts to isolate and secure the affected systems and determine the scope of the attack;
  • Further strengthening our systems to deter future incidents;
  • Retrieving the data by making a payment. We did this in collaboration with experts familiar with cyber-attacks and negotiations with cyber criminals;
  • Engaging with law enforcement, who are currently investigating the matter; and
  • Offering cyber security protection services to our customers, such as identity theft and fraud protection insurance.

I want to emphasize that at this time, our cyber security firms have advised that the risk to our customers in connection with this cyber-attack is low and that they have not seen any public disclosure of customer data as part of their investigations, including monitoring of the dark web and other online locations.

We have fixed the system issues related to the criminal activity and worked around the clock to put in place additional safeguards to protect your information. In the interest of transparency and as required by privacy regulations, we are making this announcement to notify all customers. There is information relating to approximately 15 million customers on the computer systems that were potentially accessed in this breach. The vast majority of these customers are in BC and Ontario, with relatively few customers in other locations. In the case of lab test results, our investigations to date of these systems indicate that there are 85,000 impacted customers from 2016 or earlier located in Ontario; we will be working to notify these customers directly. Our investigation to date indicates any instance of health card information was from 2016 or earlier.

While you are entitled to file a complaint with the privacy commissioners, we have already notified them of this attack and they are investigating the matter. We have also notified our government partners.

While we’ve been taking steps over the last several years to strengthen our cyber defenses, this has served as a reminder that we need to stay ahead of cybercrime which has become a pervasive issue around the world in all sectors.

Any customer who is concerned about this incident can receive one free year of protection that includes dark web monitoring and identity theft insurance. For more information and to learn more on how to sign up for cyber security protection services, please visit https://customernotice.lifelabs.com.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Brown

President and CEO
LifeLabs

LifeLabs is Canada’s largest provider of general diagnostic and specialty laboratory testing services. The company has four core divisions: LifeLabs, LifeLabs Genetics, Rocky Mountain Analytical, and Excelleris.