Equifax data breach a ‘digital disaster’ for Canadians

By David Shipley, CBC News

The fallout of the Equifax data breach is going to be felt by companies, individuals and government for years to come.

This digital disaster will cause millions of people significant stress as they are dragged into a near never-ending battle with identity thieves.

It will cost billions to contain, and attempt to clean-up, and the proceeds of the crime will throw even more fuel onto the roaring fire that is global cybercrime.

What is Equifax and what happened?

Equifax is one of the big four credit bureaus — they rank a person’s worthiness to receive credit — things like car loans, mortgages, credit cards or sometimes even services such as telephone, cable and, in the US, even health care.

Their database includes personally identifiable information — names, addresses and most crucially, data like social security numbers in the US or social insurance numbers in Canada.

‘Companies aren’t yet required to report data breaches or disclose any information about such breaches. We are severely lagging behind many countries in this regard … ‘— David Shipley

In May, an unknown group successfully breached Equifax’s online services by exploiting a vulnerability in their web servers.

A software fix, called a patch for the vulnerability, had been available in March but was not put in place. Equifax only reported the breach last week. As many as 143 million Americans and reportedly as many as 44 million people in the UK are affected.

As of this weekend, all we know about Canada is that some people are affected, but no idea exactly how many or how much personal information has been compromised.

Reportedly 10,000 Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) subscribers in Canada have been notified that their information was included in the breach.

Why don’t we know more?

To be honest, it’s the result of gaping holes in Canada’s privacy legislation.

Companies aren’t yet required to report data breaches or disclose any information about such breaches. We are severely lagging behind many countries in this regard including the U.S. but leagues behind leaders like Europe.

We’ve passed some laws in 2015 regarding breach reporting, but haven’t brought the required regulations to support the law into force yet.

‘Firms of the size of Equifax aren’t going to change their behaviour for $100,000 fines,’ says Shipley.

Canada’s federal privacy commission issued a statement on Tuesday urging Equifax to provide this information to Canadians, pointedly noting they were first notified of the breach through media reports and have been “seized” with this issue.

The Commissioner says Equifax is “cooperating” with their office.

The privacy commissioner also took the unusual step of recommending Canadians not use the U.S. website Equifax has set up as it is only designed for use with U.S. Social Security numbers.

The new regulations under Canada’s digital privacy act will help a bit — they have fines of up to $100,000 for failing to report a breach like this, but fixed fines such as that have little impact on massive corporations.

What Canada should be doing?

Canada should move to adopt new European regulations called the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR.

Fines under those rules can run up to $30 million Canadian or 4% of revenues, whichever is higher.

Those are numbers that are causing firms that do business in Europe to stand up, take notice, fix shoddy products and services and pay more attention to defending against attackers.

Firms the size of Equifax aren’t going to change their behaviour for $100,000 fines.

The bigger you are the easier you fall

Breaches such as what happened to Equifax happen every day for a combination of reasons ranging from people falling victim to scam e-mails, to delays in properly updating or patching software or servers, to not investing in appropriate security technologies or audits.

What many people don’t know or realize is that large firms have something called technical debt.

Technical debt begins to accrue when you build a new complex IT system — say a system for gathering and sharing people’s credit scores. Companies invest millions or even billions to build these systems and then launch them.

‘Sadly, there’s not much Canadians who now have to live with the mess created by the breach can do to prevent something awful from happening to their finances,’ says Shipley. ((iStock))

But over time, the technology ages.

If firms aren’t careful, the system they built can become vulnerable as more and more flaws are found in it over time.

If they don’t fix those bugs or flaws — which may cause further issues and can be time consuming, expensive or cause service outages — then as time goes on the probability of a data breach increases dramatically.

What can Canadians do?

Sadly, there’s not much Canadians who now have to live with the mess created by the breach can do to prevent something awful from happening to their finances.

Credit monitoring services help, but they can’t stop identity theft. They can only alert you that it’s happened or at best, in-progress.

Some of the better credit monitoring or identity theft services can go a bit further by assisting in recovering your identity and paying some of the legal costs, but at the end of the day a lot of stress and harm can be caused by a data breach.

‘The bigger, longer-term issue that the Equifax breach has cast a spotlight on is the obsolescence of the social insurance number … ‘— David Shipley

In the U.S., there is an option for a credit freeze, though it can cost you money and take many steps to get in place.

Americans can ask the four major credit bureaus including Equifax not to provide their information to anyone, which will stop anyone from trying to get a car loan or credit in their name if the financial institution or service provider requires a credit check.

But that option really doesn’t exist in Canada.

Some of the bureaus do allow you to flag your account requiring additional ID or someone to contact you to approve any new credit applications, which may be helpful, but not all have that option and it’s not something that’s easy to figure out.

Moving past the SIN

The bigger, longer-term issue that the Equifax breach has cast a spotlight on is the obsolescence of the social insurance number and the need for a new secure form of unique personal digital identifier for government and commercial services.

We have to stop using a nearly 50-year-old approach that just doesn’t work in a 21st-century digital environment that’s full of cyber threats.

Efforts such as New Brunswick’s experiments to create a new secure digital ID are a step in the right direction.

CAA says 10,000 consumers could be Equifax hack victims

By Armina Ligaya and David Hodges

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ The Canadian Automobile Association says it is informing about 10,000 of its members that they may have had sensitive data compromised by the massive Equifax cybersecurity breach.

The CAA said Thursday Equifax was its partner on the auto organization’s identity protection program, which began in March 2015 and was terminated on July 1, weeks before Equifax discovered the hack on July. 29.

The program required members to register their personal information such as credit cards, banking information and email address, with the option of providing a social insurance number.

The organization says it has been trying since the first reports of the Equifax breach surfaced to determine if it affects any of the approximately 10,000 CAA members who signed up for the program.

It says Equifax has not provided any answers so far. Equifax Canada did not respond to requests from The Canadian Press.

“We value our members’ privacy. Our contract with Equifax explicitly said customer data would be governed by Canada’s privacy law, PIPEDA, and we chose them as a partner because of their then high reputation. CAA did not handle or retain any of the information provided to Equifax,” said Ian Jack, CAA managing director of communications and government relations.

“We are informing the affected members that the data they shared with Equifax may have been compromised, and are writing Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner to express our concern about this breach and to ask that they push Equifax to provide more information to Canadians.”

Meanwhile, Canadians who are worried they might be victims of the Equifax Inc. hack say they are being treated as an afterthought in the wake of one of the largest online data breaches in history.

The company has provided consumers in the U.S. with a website that shows whether they are at risk of identity theft and is allowing them to monitor their files for free for one year.

But the online database does not provide Canadians with accurate information because it is based on U.S. social security numbers. The Equifax Canada website says it costs $19.95 per month for the same monitoring service.

Toronto lawyer Frances Macklin said she is frustrated that Canadians are being treated worse than their U.S. counterparts and questioned why there isn’t a dedicated portal for consumers north of the border.

“We’re equally affected. Just because I don’t have a social security number, I don’t get access to information,” said the partner at Gowlings law firm. “I’m completely bewildered by that.”

Equifax Inc. said last Thursday that a security breach occurred over the summer that compromised the private information of up to 143 million Americans, along with an undisclosed number of Canadians.

But the company has not provided further details, including how many Canadians may have been exposed. Equifax Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

However, Equifax Canada’s customer service agents have told callers that only Canadians who have had dealings in the United States are likely to have had their information compromised in the data breach.

The credit monitoring company’s call centre staff said that Canadians who have Equifax accounts in the U.S. could be at risk of having their data compromised, such as those who have lived, worked or applied for credit south of the border.

Equifax Canada’s website says that “only a limited number of Canadians may have been affected” and it is working to find out how many.

It adds that personal information that may have been breached includes names, address and Social Insurance Number and “the breach is contained.”

Robert Johnson, lead plaintiff in a proposed class action lawsuit against Equifax Canada filed in Saskatchewan, said he is upset that Canadians have only been told that a limited number have been compromised.

The Regina business analyst said he trusted them with his personal information and does not understand why it is taking so long to provide more information about the hack.

Communications expert Warren Weeks believes Equifax could not have handled this issue in a worse way.

“We’re talking about the gateway to all of your financial information in your life,” said Weeks, who is the principal of communication firm Weeks Media Group.

“And Canadians, in specific, don’t know if they’ve been targeted or not or they’ve been impacted or not? I think in 2017, that’s unacceptable.”

Hub International Acquires Canadian-Based Delisle Agencies Ltd.

Hub International Limited (Hub), a leading global insurance brokerage, announced today that it has acquired Delisle Agencies Ltd. (Delisle).  Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Based in Delisle, Saskatchewan, CanadaDelisle specializes in personal lines and government automotive insurance solutions.  Rob Ouellette, President, will join HUB Manitoba and report to Doug Trapp, Vice President, HUB Manitoba.

About Hub’s M&A Activities
Hub International Limited is committed to growing organically and through acquisitions to expand its geographic footprint and strengthen industry and product expertise.  For more information on the Hub M&A experience, visit WeAreHub.com.

About Hub International
Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Hub International Limited is a leading global insurance brokerage that provides property and casualty, life and health, employee benefits, investment and risk management products and services from offices located throughout North America.  For more information, please visit hubinternational.com.

SOURCE Hub International Limited 

You would not go years without maintaining your car; why would you neglect your furnace?

Imagine you have spent an entire week cooking, cleaning and decorating your home for the annual family reunion. You wake up the morning of your event and notice that it had snowed overnight which left the trees glistening in the sunlight and the temperatures dropping dramatically.  Shaking off a chill, you walk to the thermostat to turn on the furnace only to be greeted with nothing but silence. You have 20 people arriving in five hours and you have no heat!  On top of getting the final preparations ready for your guests you now have to scramble to find a HVAC technician who can care for your indoor climate.

When hiring a contractor, it is recommended that you do your homework and follow these important steps

  1. Visit BaeumlerApproved.ca for a list of vetted HVAC contractors in your area
  2. Visit online review forums for contractor customer reviews
  3. Once you have decided on a specific contractor, ask them for a copy of their certificate of insurance
  4. Make sure they are registered with WSIB and that they are in a good standing – www.wsib.ca
  5. Get a contract outlining the work to be done and the costs. Ensure you receive and approve change-orders for any work that goes outside of the scope of the original quote prior to the extra work being done.

Don’t get left out in the cold – inspect your furnace annually
It is common knowledge that if you drive a car without regular maintenance or oil changes, the engine will eventually cease and only be good for its parts. The same is true for your HVAC appliances. HVAC systems are complicated pieces of mechanical equipment subject to breakdowns and repairs without proper maintenance. It is generally recommended that furnaces be maintained annually in the fall prior to starting it up to reduce the chances of it breaking down in the dead of winter when it is needed the most.

Properly maintained HVAC systems can reduce your monthly energy bills
Annual maintenance programs will inspect and test all aspects of your system to ensure it runs efficiently and safely.

Technicians will check thermostat calibrations, tighten electrical connections, inspect condensate drains, clean and adjust the blower, check fuel line connections, lubricate moving parts, check system controls (start cycle, operation and shut-off sequence) as well as inspect gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchangers. They will also check for any leaks which could cause carbon monoxide to leak into your home.

When your HVAC system runs inefficiently it needs to work harder to produce heat which increases the risk for failure, repairs and higher energy bills.  The cost of an annual maintenance program can improve your indoor comfort, extend the life of your HVAC system and ultimately save you money on your utility bills.  Find a ClimateCare HVAC retailer near you at www.BaeumlerApproved.ca or www.climatecare.com to learn about their maintenance programs so that you are not left in the cold this winter.

ABOUT ClimateCare Cooperative Corporation
ClimateCare is Canada’s largest network of independent heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems contractors.  They are 100% member owned and have operated that way since the cooperative was formed in 1992.  As a network of local businesses spread across Ontario, customers deal with companies that deliver the high standards associated with the ClimateCare name while supporting the local economy. Click here for a list of all ClimateCare locations.

The We Care Promise
ClimateCare’s members are committed to ongoing training and technical education so they can reliably provide great service and modern solutions.  All HVAC contractors agree to conduct business following the WE CARE promise of comfort, accountability, reliability and excellence.

ABOUT BaeumlerApproved.ca
BaeumlerApproved.ca was created to help homeowners connect with contractors, trades and home service providers across Canada by helping them know what to look for.  BaeumlerApproved.ca members must demonstrate a verifiable quality of work and customer satisfaction.  They submit to a screening process that includes BaeumlerApproved.ca gaining feedback from customers and companies that the applicant has collaborated with on projects.  Other screening criteria include online reviews, insurance coverage, worker’s compensation and maintaining appropriate professional certifications.

SOURCE ClimateCare Cooperative Corporation 

Manulife Financial Corp.’s Stock Just Got a Whole Lot More Attractive

Will Ashworth | The Motley Fool

Current Manulife Financial Corp. (TSX:MFC)(NYSE:MFC) president Roy Gori, who’s scheduled to take over as CEO from the retiring Donald Guloien on October 1, had some strong words to say about the insurance industry at the 2017 Scotiabank Financials Summit September 7.

It might have been an incoming CEO beating his or her chest to warn all the other primates in the investment zoo that Manulife was ready to bring its “A” game. It also could have been the brash attitude of the typical Aussie, but Gori left no doubt that change is coming at Manulife — and that’s a good thing.

Unusually complicated

“If you apply for an insurance product, you’ll get a 16-page application form with 120 questions, more often than not,” said Gori during his speech. “It’s still very paper-based, very manual and, as a result, our industry net promoter scores are really very poor.”

I spent 16 months in 2014 through early 2016 writing for a Canadian trade publication that covers the insurance industry; I learned up close just how archaic the industry is.

Literally, in some parts of the world, you could probably buy and move into a new house with far less paperwork than is required to obtain life insurance with most carriers in this country.

One of the companies I became familiar with during my stint writing about insurance was Apexa Corp., a Toronto-based company that’s a spin-off of LOGiQ3Group, a collection of businesses and ideas out to simplify the insurance industry through innovation, creativity, and, most importantly, technology.

Apexa’s web-based platform for collaboration between the various stakeholders finally went live in August — much later than originally projected, but, as Gori says, that’s insurance.

Technology is the key

At the same time I wrote about the insurance industry, I also covered the wealth management industry, primarily from the advisor perspective. It too had its quirks, but was lightyears ahead of insurance.

“Customers engage today on their phones with other organizations in a seamless, transparent and very efficient way,” Gori said. “That’s not how they work with the insurance industry, so we need to transform our technology footprint.”

The entire insurance industry is playing catch-up; Gori is right to call out the industry for being in the dark ages. Shareholders of Great-West Lifeco Inc.(TSX:GWO) can relate all too well to this need for industry change.

In April, it announced that it was laying off 1,500 of its Canadian employees over 24 months to reduce overhead. Reinvesting the savings in customer-focused innovations such as speedy online applications and digital dashboards that make it easy to buy and own insurance, Great-West Lifeco believes it can provide a better customer experience at a fraction of the cost.

The digitization of insurance has begun.

“Our survey found that 74% of insurance companies identified their own industry, while only 26% of players from other sectors agreed. This perception gap could indicate that the disruption is in its very early stages,” said Allan Buitendag, PwC’s National Insurance Leader. “Annual investments in InsurTech start-ups have increased fivefold over the past three years, reaching $3.4 billion since 2010.”

I’d expect lots of M&A activity in FinTech by Canadian insurance companies Over the 24-36 months. You can bet Manulife will be in the mix.

Why is this good for Manulife?

First, it signals that Gori is not afraid to do what’s necessary to compete in its two best markets: Canada and Asia.

Although Manulife played down the July rumours that the company was planning to spin off its John Hancock business, the fact that Craig Bromley, the head of its U.S. division, resigned in late May, suggests it could happen.

Add to this the fact the new CEO understands Asian financial services, and you get the idea that Manulife is ready to use technology to capture more of these two markets, leaving the U.S. for others.

In July, I suggested the spin-off would be a good reason to consider Manulife’s stock. With Gori’s provocative opening salvo, things at Manulife are looking more promising by the day.

However, actions speak louder than words. By the end of 2017, we should know if Gori is the real deal. Until then, I’m not a buyer.

Learn more about where insurance specialists work and what you can expect from this career

Learn more about where insurance specialists work and what you can expect from this career

WHERE DO INSURANCE SPECIALISTS WORK?

Finding work in the Canadian insurance industry is a smart career option. No one can know when tragedy may strike, so it pays to be prepared. Thus, insurance is a critical component of life for a large percentage of the population.

In response to this, triOS College has developed an excellent Insurance Specialist program. It educates students and provides them with all the tools they need to succeed in their future career. In this program, you receive practical experience, an eight week internship, and lifelong career assistance, among other benefits. For full information about this program, visit our website.

There are a few things you will want to understand as you move down this career path, including information on licensing, location of employment, and expected wages.

WAGES

The salary you can expect as an insurance specialist in Canada is consistently above the average wage. The average salary of this occupation is $68,775 a year, and applies to full-time employed insurance specialists in Ontario. To help put this in perspective, the average salary listed for all occupations is $61,495, which means that even if your salary for your work as an insurance specialist does not hit the provincial average, it is still likely valued at a higher rate.

LICENSING

In order to continue in a career as an insurance specialist, broker, et cetera, all individuals have to pass certain licensing exams. This includes the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario (RIBO) exam, which you will receive training for as a part of triOS College’s Insurance Specialist program. Other licensing bodies and associations include the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (as well as the Canada-wide one), the Insurance Institute of Canada, and the Financial Services Commission of Ontario.

LOCATION AND INDUSTRY

You can find work as an insurance specialist or broker in many locations across the country. Simply pay attention to your job search. If there is a location you prefer, try filtering your search there first before expanding.

With that said, some regions have more opportunities for the insurance industry jobseeker than others. In Ontario, the top two regions for employment (as an agent, broker, et cetera) are Toronto region with 50% of the provincial total, and Kitchener/Waterloo and Barrie with 10% of the provincial total. The region with the lowest percentage (coming in at only 2%) is the Muskoka-Kawarthas. Other areas of note for work as an insurance specialist include Ottawa, London, Hamilton, and the Niagara Peninsula.

The major employment as an insurance specialist is within the insurance industry itself (full companies offering insurance, whether it be auto, home, or life). Another major industry that employs insurance specialists and agents is the finance industry. Together, these employ 98% of insurance specialists and agents.

COMPANIES

When looking for employment in insurance, the search that will yield the most results is one that focuses on dedicated insurance companies. Some examples of companies that often hire triOS College graduates include HUB International, Hubbard Insurance Group, Orr Insurance &Investment, and St. Andrews Direct Insurance.

LET’S GET STARTED

triOS College

 

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