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A call to action about the Lifelabs medical data breach

Web posted on December 19, 2019

Today's column is a call to action for those who have used Lifelabs sometime in the past 10 years for medical tests or other services.

Recent media reports detail how Lifelabs paid out an undisclosed amount of cash (surely in the millions) to unlock ransomware on their data. The number of potential clients affected can be as high as 15 million people.

Given that 15 million represents about 40 per cent of the total Canadian population, that means a great many readers, like myself, face the possibility of identity theft.  The company says the threat is low.

I am pleased that Lifelabs has been open about the hack and provides a free one-year protection service through Transunion, one of two credit bureaus operating nationally in Canada.

However, I do have one criticism about their actions. The breach was discovered Nov. 1, according to one report I read. So, why did it take six weeks for the company to announce it publicly and place potentially 15 million clients at risk?

Admittedly, this is the first time a hack has been made against a medical services institution. But the question still remains.

And, while Lifelabs has been open about its experience, answering many questions raised about the incident, there remains one answer it has not made: Was the data involved encrypted or not? And if not, why not?

The company claims it has experts and high-end infrastructure in place to protect client information but it seems in this case none of that worked. Will heads roll over this embarrassing episode?

Lifelabs should be lauded for taking steps to provide a one-year identity theft protection program offered by Transunion. But it is in reality too little, too late.

It's as if the company is simply saying sorry.

The reality is that clients involved will face a lifetime of concern about their credit standing and face an on-going fear that bank accounts and credit cards; or even more chilling, the purchase of property or other high-end purchases could be nade in their name. Not to mention that the burden for the cost of protection is now on their client's shoulders for decades to come.

One year of protection, while greatly appreciated no doubt, is like offer small change while the client is faced with doling out dollars in the future.

For those interested in taking part in the protection program, there are two phone numbers you can call for information and one website to register on for the Transunion protection program. You won't find out if you are one of the 15 million involved in this incident, as I found when I called to inquire about my status.

The phone numbers: 1-888-918-0467 or the link to enrolment protection 1-888-228-4939.

Once you call the first number you will receive a 12-digit code that can be used when you call the second number or you can go to to enroll.

That's it. Until next time.