Canadian insurance company lost nearly US$1M in ransomware attack

The excerpted article was written by Ryan Flanagan CTVNews

TORONTO — Computers at a Canadian insurance company were disabled for more than one week due to a ransomware attack that resulted in a payout of nearly US$1 million.

The attack happened last October, but is only coming to light now as efforts to reclaim the ransom make their way through the British court system.

The U.K. court action is being led by a British insurance firm with which the Canadian company had a policy protecting it against suffering losses from cyberattacks.

Neither company is named publicly in the lawsuit the British company has filed against the unknown attackers. In a court decision made last month and published Jan. 17, Justice Simon Bryan ruled that hearings in the case would be held in private and that the involved insurance companies’ names would not be published, saying anything else would open the insurance companies up to retaliatory and copycat attacks while also potentially giving the hackers a chance to cover their tracks.

“Publicity would defeat the object of the hearing,” Bryan wrote.


According to Bryan’s written decision, the hacker or hackers somehow “managed to infiltrate and bypass the firewall of [the Canadian company].” From there, they encrypted files on the company’s servers and locked desktop computers. They also left a note.

“Hello [company name] your network was hacked and encrypted. No free decryption software is available on the web. Email us … to get the ransom amount. Keep our contact safe. Disclosure can lead to the impossibility of decryption. Please use your company name as the email subject,” the message read.

The Canadian company got in touch with its British insurer, which hired ransomware response specialists. The hacker told the specialists they were demanding US$1.2 million in Bitcoin, but eventually agreed to US$950,000 “as an exception.”

The specialists then transferred 109.25 Bitcoin – roughly equivalent to US$950,000 at the time – of the British company’s money to the specified account. Although they had been promised a quick response, nearly 16 hours elapsed before the hacker got in touch again, giving them a decryption program.

Even with the program, it took five days to run the program on each of the company’s 20 servers and five more to decrypt and unlock all 1,000 desktop computers.

Some of the Bitcoin was sold for other currency before specialists were able to locate it, but the bulk of the ransom – 96 Bitcoin – was traced to one specific account on one specific exchange.

The British company is suing the hacker as well as the owner of the account – it’s not certain if they’re the same person or not – as well as the Bitcoin exchange. The insurance firm is seeking a court order to force the exchange to reveal the identity of the account owner.


The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) described ransomware last September as “an increasingly common threat, targeting everyone from individuals and small businesses to large private enterprises and government organizations.”

There have been several high-profile cases in Canada in recent years, including an attack that paralyzed the Nunavut government’s computers for nearly two weeks last November.

Insurance companies are also known targets. One of the largest insurers in Oman was reportedly hit earlier this month. In Canada, Andrew Agencies Ltd. was targeted last fall but said it did not pay a ransom – implying that they are not the Canadian company at the centre of the British case.

The CAFC notes that there is no way to completely safeguard against these attacks, but says training employees to recognize cybersecurity threats, restricting access to computer administrative privileges and storing backup data offline can help protect an organization.

Source: CTV News



ICBC Changing Counsel at “11th Hour” Not an “Emergent Circumstance” Justifying Short Leave

The guest post was written by ERIK MAGRAKEN

Reasons for judgement were recently published by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing short leave for three ‘last minute‘ applications.

In the recent case (Agelakis v. Xu) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages. One month before trial ICBC brought in a new defence lawyer.  Two weeks before trial that lawyer sought short leave for three applications, namely for document disclosure; a further examination for discovery of the plaintiff; and removal of the proceedings from fast track litigation.

The Court held that these applications may have been dismissed on the merits however short leave was simply not appropriate as these last minute request would unfairly cause ‘dramatic upheaval‘ to the Plaintiff’s trial preparation efforts.  In dismissing the request for short leave Master Muir provided the following reasons:

[5]            The plaintiff submits that this is a classic case of inattention by the defendants, although not necessarily by this defence counsel, to a motor vehicle accident action.

[6]            The plaintiff submits that short leave applications have historically been overused and they are extraordinarily disruptive to plaintiff’s counsel, particularly with a trial being 11 days away.

[7]            Plaintiff’s counsel referred me to the decision of Master Baker in O’Callaghan v. Hengsbach, 2017 BCSC 2182:

[17]      Such applications should be restricted to emergent circumstances and should not reward inefficiency, inattention to a particular case, or a lack of oversight. To abridge the time limits imposed by the Supreme Court Civil Rules is, presumably, to prejudice the other party who is, naturally, entitled to rely on timelines imposed by the Rules and to expect the opposing party to do likewise.

[21]      … In too many cases, in my view, the defence, either assuming that settlement is likely or simply by applying triage or prioritizing in busy offices with large caseloads, have not given due attention and focus in a timely way to the possible claims and damages of the plaintiff. Lawyers are extremely busy professionals. They have many cases other than the one specifically before the court. Every master and judge knows that. Still, that cannot be permitted to affect the other party’s right to due process and adherence to the rules unless clearly justified; it is the court’s function to prevent that.

[8]            I will just refer to one other case and that is the decision of Justice Kent in Forstved v. Kokabi, 2018 BCSC 111. His Lordship held:

[10]      Many of the documents that are now being demanded were not the subject matter of requests for additional documentation at the examinations for discovery. What has happened here is what occurs all too frequently in these personal injury cases; that is, the defendants tend to wait until the eve of trial before conducting follow-up discoveries and undertaking trial preparation work that could have and should have been done many months before. Absent exceptional circumstances, I am not prepared to grant applications of this sort brought on the eve of trial. It is far too late.

[17]      I recognize this oral ruling at the conclusion of hurried submissions is inelegant and perhaps even inarticulate. The theme I am attempting to express is that last-minute scrambling and last-minute demands for extensive production of additional documents will not be endorsed by the court. Trial time is a precious commodity and efficiency is required for the system to work effectively and in a manner that is fair to all participants. Parties should approach preparation for trial and any related applications to compel additional production much earlier than was evidently done in this particular case.

[9]            I agree with the plaintiff that the failure to address this case properly by the defendants has resulted in these three last-minute applications for short leave when the plaintiff is obviously in the midst of trial preparation. The prejudice to the plaintiff would be significant. If the plaintiff was not successful in defeating these applications, it would have the result of being a dramatic upheaval to the trial preparation effort. Given the sentiments expressed by Kent J., there is some probability that the defendants would not be successful on these of applications this close to trial in any event.

[10]         I am satisfied that retainer of counsel at the “eleventh hour” is not an emergent circumstance and the applications for short leave, therefore, should be denied.

[11]         The plaintiff will have her costs in the cause of this application.

Agelakis v. Xu, bc injury law, Master Muir, Short Leave, Short Leave Applications

Alcohol and Drug Host Liability Course with ILScorp

Alcohol and Drug Host Liability Course with ILScorp

This is a comprehensive course of critical importance to any proprietor or landlord who acts as a host to individuals who are using alcohol or drugs on their premises. The slide presentation includes several examples and actual court cases to present the facts about liability, under the law, for the safety of such patrons and guests. The course demonstrates the importance for hosts to avail themselves of protection through insurance coverage, and to understand the conditions surrounding that coverage. It provides important practical guidance and information for all stakeholders in these matters. A quiz allows participants to assess their understanding on completion of the course.

Includes the following topics:

  • The role of drugs and alcohol in fatal car accidents
  • Training for staff serving as commercial hosts
  • Testing for impairment and recognizing impairment
  • Drugs in current use and effects of particular drugs on users
  • Issues around the legalization of edibles containing cannabis
  • The role of insurance providers in the education of hosts
  • Responsibilities of event organizers as hosts and responsibilities of landlords and condominium corporations
  • Investigations of claims related to drug and alcohol use
  • Safety standards expected of commercial host establishments
  • Patron conduct
  • The B.C. Occupiers Liability Act
  • Role and duties of the adjuster
  • Use of force issues
  • Liability of cannabis retailers

La Capitale and SSQ Insurance announce their intention to combine operations

QUEBEC CITY, Jan. 29, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – La Capitale Insurance and Financial Services and SSQ Insurance are announcing today their decision to combine operations. The new entity will become an influential player and the biggest mutual insurance company in Canada. From day 1 it will have 4,700 employees and more than 3.5 million members and clients.

La Capitale and SSQ Insurance are two companies of similar size with complementary operations. La Capitale is a leader in property and casualty insurance while SSQ Insurance is well known for group insurance. The merger of equals, which brings the two companies together as equals, will be a driving force for each organization. The new company will be poised for faster growth and improved competitiveness at a time when the insurance industry is evolving rapidly.

Both entities are seizing a unique opportunity to join forces and build a new company with nationwide reach and a head office that will remain in Quebec City for the long term. The company will build on a solid foundation of skilled employees, strong mutualist values, sound finances, and a broad range of expertise.

Combined assets under management for the new company will total more than $20 billion, and consolidated premiums will be worth $5 billion.

Stages of the merger

At this time no changes will be made to either company’s operations. There are still steps to complete before the merger of equals can be finalized, including approval from the regulatory authorities and the mutualist members at their respective meetings as well as amendments to each company’s private bills. Ideally, the merger of equals will be finalized quickly in the upcoming parliamentary session.

A process will be set up to decide on the name and image of the new company.

Once the new entity is in place, Jean St-Gelais is expected to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors and Jean-François Chalifoux as CEO. Jean St-Gelais is currently Chair of the Board and Chief Executive of La Capitale, while Jean-François Chalifoux is CEO of SSQ Insurance.


“We’re delighted to combine our strengths and work as a team to create the biggest insurance mutual in Canada. Together, we’ll be better able to meet current challenges of staying competitive and versatile, developing our workforce, and keeping up with technology. Both our companies are on solid financial ground. Together, we will be even stronger.”

-Jean-François Chalifoux
CEO, SSQ Insurance

“In the rapidly changing world of insurance, we concluded that an alliance between La Capitale and SSQ Insurance is the best way forward for both our organizations. It’s a strategic positioning. We have a genuine desire to work together and create a major new Quebec insurance company with more power for faster growth. It’s a promising—and substantial—undertaking.”

Jean St-Gelais
Chair of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive, La Capitale

About La Capitale

La Capitale Insurance and Financial Services, created in 1940, has a strong presence across Quebec and throughout Canada. With close to 2,700 employees and guided by the values of mutualism on which it was founded, La Capitale works with clients to build, protect, and manage what they consider critical to their financial security. The company offers insurance products and financial services to the general public as well as to Quebec public service employees. With assets of $7.4 billion, La Capitale features prominently among leading insurers in Canada.

About SSQ Insurance

Founded in 1944, SSQ Insurance is a mutualist company that puts community at the heart of insurance.  With assets under management of $12 billion, SSQ Insurance is one of the largest companies in the industry. Working for a community of over three million customers, SSQ Insurance employs 2,000 people. The company is a leader in group insurance and sets itself apart through its expertise in individual life and health insurance, general insurance, and the investment sector.

SOURCE La Capitale Insurance and Financial Services

For further information: Marc-André Tremblay, TACT, Cell: 581 994-5180,

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B.C. introduces new complaint process in bid to increase trust in ICBC

VANCOUVER _ British Columbia’s attorney general says the province will  “supercharge” an office that deals with complaints against the Insurance Corp. of B.C. in an effort to increase public trust in the Crown auto insurer.

David Eby made the announcement as one of several moves that he says will increase transparency and accountability at ICBC.

The government will also require the auto insurer to post its annual reports online in  “plain language,” so that the average person can understand the financial health of the Crown corporation and how premiums are calculated.

And individuals who accept pre-litigation payments from ICBC will no longer be barred from later suing the corporation, a move that Eby said may reduce the number of cases that actually end up in court.

ICBC already has a fairness office with a $200,000 budget, but Eby said it is hard to find and there’s no statutory obligation for ICBC to respond to its recommendations.

Under the changes, the commissioner will be appointed by cabinet, complaints can be filed online and the nature of complaints, the commissioner’s recommendations and ICBC’s responses must be posted publicly in plain language.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that many British Columbians simply don’t trust ICBC,” Eby said at a news conference Wednesday.

“That’s a problem because British Columbians deserve the peace of mind of knowing that if they’re injured in a crash and they ask a public insurance provider for help, they need to know they will be well taken care of.”

The New Democrats  “inherited a mess,” when they took power and discovered ICBC was operating with billion-dollar deficits and projections showed massive increases to premiums for drivers would be required to break even.

“The fact that this information was not available to the public before the 2017 election is just one more example of why more transparency is needed at the corporation,” he said.

Since then, ICBC’s finances have stabilized and accident rates have gone down thanks to road safety initiatives. But the government is still working toward a goal of decreasing premiums and establishing trust in the Crown corporation, he said.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson has called for more choice in the sector after a report by accounting firm MNP found B.C. residents pay up to 42 per cent more for car insurance compared to drivers in Alberta.

Wilkinson said the report concluded that B.C. and Alberta have similar insurance coverage and systems, but the difference is that Alberta allows choice and free-market competition.

Eby said Wednesday that he has considered the option of privatizing insurance but that his office has been unable to replicate the modelling promised by the private sector. Under independent analysis, he said moving to a private insurance model would actually increase premiums for almost all drivers, except for one third of drivers older than 45.

The NDP caucus has previously responded that privatizing car insurance could result in double-digit rate increases, saying that the Alberta government recently removed a rate cap, which allowed rates to skyrocket up to 30 per cent.

Canada preparing plane to fly Canadians from Wuhan, once China gives OK

By Mike Blanchfield and Hina Alam


Canada has a plane being prepared to fly Canadians out of the province in China at the centre of an outbreak of a new coronavirus, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Wednesday.

The government is also advising all Canadians to avoid  “non-essential” travel to China and has also scaled back its diplomatic presence in the country because of the outbreak.

The next step in the evacuation process is to secure co-operation from China to assist the 160 Canadians who have requested some form of help, Champagne said. Not all of them want to leave, he emphasized in an appearance on Parliament Hill.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, later warned that not everyone who wants to come back to Canada may be able to leave.

“The Chinese authority will not let anyone who might be infected on the plane,” she told the House of Commons health committee.

China has all but sealed off one of its central provinces where the novel coronavirus was first detected. The virus causes respiratory symptoms similar to the common cold, but it can be deadly in very severe cases.

At Champagne’s side, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government still has to decide what will happen with the Canadians who leave China, so as to prevent any spread of the illness.

Asked whether returning travellers would be held in quarantine, Hajdu replied:  “We will always work to ensure the health of Canadians, whether they’re abroad or whether they’re here. So, yes what we’re looking at is a scenario where we have all the measures in place to protect Canadians from exposure to the virus. Having said that, that’s about as far as I can go.”

Officials say the 201 Americans taken to the United States from the Chinese city at the centre of the virus outbreak are undergoing three days of monitoring at a southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.

Hajdu said the U.S. has a process that is working  “efficiently.”

Champagne said Canada is working with allies to co-ordinate plans and make the logistics work, and that could take more time.

Some other countries have promised similar help for their citizens stuck in the province of Hubei particularly those that have diplomatic offices there, which Canada does not and Champagne said Canada isn’t far behind them.

“The only plane which has landed is a U.S. plane that was scheduled to be there,” Champagne said, which was then followed by a plane sent by Japan earlier Wednesday.

He said Canada was at the  “forefront” of the international response.

The virus has killed 170 people and infected more than 7,700 on the Chinese mainland and abroad.

A Twitter message by the Canadian Embassy in China said that as of Wednesday its diplomatic missions are working with reduced staff due to the coronavirus. It urged Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance to call or email the emergency response centre of Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa.

It also posted the contact phone number of 1-613-996-8885 and the email address of sos?

A teacher who is living with his pregnant Canadian wife and child in a city that is the epicentre of China‘s coronavirus outbreak had been hoping to leave the country on a British flight.

Tom Williams is hoping to get his wife, Lauren, who is about 35 weeks pregnant, out of Wuhan, the Hubei city that has been essentially locked down with the emergence of the disease. The couple also has a two-and-a-half-year-old son, James, who is Canadian.

Williams is a British expat and his wife and son are from British Columbia.

“We’re just currently waiting to hear confirmation whether we’ve got space on the British flight,” Williams told The Canadian Press in a FaceTime interview from China on Wednesday, before Champagne’s announcement.

The family received a call from officials in Ottawa earlier this week, who asked permission to share his wife’s file with the British Embassy, he said.

“We have some stuff laid out in case it’s a last-minute departure.”

At least 250 Canadians have registered with Global Affairs Canada to say they are in Wuhan, said Champagne, who added that officials are trying to contact everyone to assess their needs.

Williams said looking at options isn’t really helping people on the ground, although he understands that Canada doesn’t have a diplomatic presence in Wuhan, a city of 11 million. Canadian offices in Beijing and Shanghai are closed until Sunday for the Lunar New Year holiday.

“We’re just a little anxious and hoping for some answers pretty soon,” said Williams, who added that he and his family are  “still healthy and still OK.”

The family went out during the day Wednesday and the streets were “very quiet,” he said. They take their temperatures whenever they enter and leave their apartment complex.

James was watching “Toy Story” Wednesday afternoon.

“He’s a little bit clingy, but we’re doing our best with train sets and different things. Trying to keep him entertained.”

Canadian Wayne Duplessis, who teaches in China, said he and his family registered with the emergency response centre in Ottawa to know what help may be available in Wuhan.

But Duplessis, who is originally from Espanola, Ont., said he is not looking to leave.

Most people he knows are taking the situation in stride, although he said there is  “a certain resignation” and  “despair.” Duplessis and his family members take their temperatures every morning at breakfast.

More restrictions have been placed on cars and some people are worried those might affect day-to-day activities such as getting groceries, he said.

From his 28th-floor balcony, Duplessis said he could see the highway, usually buzzing with activity, was empty.

“The IKEA mall across the street is empty, which is too bad. There’s great lunches there,” he said.

“An IKEA meatball lunch would be nice right now.”

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