CPA Canada hit by cyberattack affecting data of more than 329,000

TORONTO _ A cyberattack on the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada website has affected the personal information of more than 329,000 members and stakeholders, the organization said.

The information includes names, addresses, emails and employer names, but passwords and credit card numbers were protected by encryption, CPA Canada said.

It warned the data could be used in email phishing scams and encouraged those affected to  “remain vigilant.”

The attack by  “unauthorized third parties” occurred between Nov. 30 and May 1, according to an internal investigation carried out with the help of cybersecurity experts.

The organization said it beefed up its security measures and contacted the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and privacy authorities after learning of “a possible security incident” the week of April 20.

“Upon discovering this, CPA Canada took immediate steps to secure its systems and conduct a thorough analysis to determine what information may have been involved,” the group said in an email.

“There is no evidence that the encryption keys were affected in this incident and we have no reason to believe the encryption was compromised.”

The personal information relates mainly to the distribution of CPA Magazine and everyone affected has been notified, the organization said.

Hacks against a wide range of companies since 2018 have included medical test laboratory LifeLabs and credit union Desjardins, which combined saw the theft of the personal information of more than 19 million Canadians.

 

BC Issues New Orders And Guidance To Employers For Phase 2 Of Its Restart Plan

The excerpted article was written
McCarthy Tétrault LLP

As BC begins Phase 2 of its Restart Plan, the Provincial Health Officer and WorkSafeBC (“WSBC”) have published the following orders, guidance and resources relevant to employers.

Orders by the Provincial Health Officer

On May 14, 2020, Dr. Henry issued an order cancelling her earlier April 16, 2020 order that operators close all personal service establishments and stop providing personal services in any location. Personal service establishments may open effective May 19, 2020.

On May 14, 2020, Dr. Henry enacted an order regarding workplace safety plans (the “COVID-19  Safety  Plans“). Under the order, an employer must post a copy of its COVID-19 Safety Plan on its website, if it has one, and at all of its workplaces so that it may be reviewed by workers, individuals who attend the workplace and members of the public. On request, an employer must also provide a copy of its COVID-19 Safety Plan to a health officer or a WSBC officer.

On May 15, 2020, Dr. Henry issued an order allowing restaurants and bars to open subject to conditions, including implementing physical distancing measures. Patrons must be able to maintain a distance of two metres from staff as well as one another, unless they are in the same party. Further, establishments cannot exceed 50 percent of their usual capacity of patrons present at one time, and they cannot hold events that include more than 50 people. If practicable, establishments must retain contact information for one member of every party of patrons for thirty days in the event that the medical health officer needs it for contact tracing. Finally, nightclubs must remain closed. The order came into effect on May 19, 2020.

The Provincial Health Officer may take enforcement action against any party that violates these orders under Part 4, Division 6 of the Public Health Act.

Recent Guidance

The BC Ministry of Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control recently published guidance for employers and workers in various sectors, including natural resources, farming and hotels.

The guidance for natural resource sector work camps includes conducting a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment for field operations, worker education, increased hygiene and cleaning practices, physical distancing, transportation for workers, guidance for workers while working, guidance for workers during breaks or while in communal spaces, guidance for situations where maintaining physical distance of two metres is difficult, guidance on handling tools and equipment, guidance on COVID-19 and worker accommodation, information regarding First Nations and First Nations Health Centres, physical distancing and local communities, information about face masks, and what employers must do to monitor worker health.

The guidance for farms and farm workers includes conducting a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment for the farm operation, worker education, guidance for training workers and employers on hygiene, guidance for increased hygiene, guidance for increased cleaning, physical distancing, transportation for workers, guidance for workers while working, guidance for workers during breaks or while in communal spaces, guidance for situations where maintaining physical distance of two metres is difficult, guidance on handling tools and equipment, guidance on COVID-19 hygiene and worker accommodation, information regarding First Nations and First Nations Health Centres, physical distancing and local communities, information about face masks, and what employers must do to monitor worker health. The guidance acknowledges that physical distancing between farm workers may be difficult in certain situations. Where workers are required to work together in close proximity to complete tasks, employers should form work pods (of six or fewer workers, if possible) to limit close contact within a small group. Similarly, where workers are required to travel together in vehicles to the work site, workers must travel in designated vehicles with their work pod and frequently clean and disinfect vehicles.

Guidance for the hotel sector covers general cleaning, housekeeping and laundry, waste management, food and beverage services, spas and salons, pools, fitness centres and playgrounds, staff health, and communication, signage and posters.

WSBC Guidance and Resources

WSBC has recently issued guidance relevant to Phase 2, including about COVID-19 Safety Plans, controlling exposure of the virus to workers, and new communication and training requirements.

COVID-19 Safety Plans

Employers must involve frontline workers, joint health and safety committees and supervisors when creating protocols for their workplace. WSBC has published a six-step process to help employers create their COVID-19 Safety Plan. The WSBC template is a fillable PDF that employers can use to develop their policies, guidelines and procedures. Employers are not required to have a formal plan in place prior to beginning operations, but are expected to develop their COVID-19 Safety Plan while taking steps to protect their workers’ safety. WSBC will consider enforcement measures if employers fail to take measures to protect workers from COVID-19.

Controlling Exposure

Employers should develop policies on who can be at the workplace, including policies on sick workers and recent travel. Employers do not have to implement health monitoring, such as temperatures checks or medical questionnaires, and should be aware of privacy issues if they choose to collect potentially sensitive medical information. WSBC notes that wearing masks is not mandatory for workers outside healthcare workplaces, and that masks and other personal protective equipment (“PPE”) should not be used as the only control measure. Instead, employers should offer the following types of protection, listed in order of greatest efficacy: i) eliminate risks (i.e. by limiting the number of workers at any one time, and enforce physical distancing), ii) implement engineering controls (i.e. installing barriers such as Plexiglas to separate people), iii) establish administrative controls (i.e. cleaning protocols) and iv) supply PPE such as non-medical masks.

Communication and Training

Employers should provide information to workers describing how they are managing COVID-19, including COVID-19 symptoms and a reminder not to go to work if workers have them, occupancy limits in common areas and other physical distancing measures, how specific tasks have been changed to prevent the potential spread of the virus, and instructions about hygiene. Employers are also responsible for training workers in tasks that they have changed as part of their COVID-19 Safety Plan, such as limits on the number of people in certain areas of the workplace and cleaning expectations for common areas and equipment. Where workplaces interface with customers, employers should consider adding signage, floor markings and other directions to ensure customers are maintaining physical distance from workers.

Source: Mondaq

COVID 19 aid programs will have to end, others to be modified, Trudeau says

By Jordan Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ The federal government is in talks with business and labour groups to figure out the future of billions in emergency aid, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said one day after a warning that current spending was sustainable for only so long.

Emergency federal aid to date is approaching $152 billion in direct spending, which has pushed the deficit to an estimated $260 billion this fiscal year.

Parliament’s spending watchdog told a Senate committee Tuesday that current spending levels would limit the government’s ability to provide needed stimulus money during a recovery.

Budget officer Yves Giroux also said emergency programs had to sunset or else the country could be looking at tax levels not seen for generations.

Speaking outside his Ottawa residence Wednesday, Trudeau said some of the aid programs will have to be phased out.

Others, he said, would need to continue or be tweaked to aid in a recovery.

“We are still very much in the emergency phase, in the crisis phase of this, even as we’re seeing careful reopenings,” Trudeau said in response to a reporter’s question.

“We will, however, look very carefully at how we end certain programs, how we modify others in order to get our economy going again to where it was before (the pandemic) or even better.”

In his opening remarks, Trudeau seemingly previewed his thinking on the issue. He said fewer people would need help through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit as businesses reopen and workers are rehired, possibly with help from a federal wage subsidy.

The most recent CERB figures show more than $41 billion in benefits to 8.25 million people, pushing further beyond its $35-billion budget.

The first cohort of CERB recipients will max out their benefits the first week of July, raising questions about what to do with those who still don’t have a job, or those who can’t qualify for employment insurance.

“The focus of the next phase of the CERB has to be about those individuals and also create incentives to work for those individuals where some job may be available for them,” said Parisa Mahboubi, a senior policy analyst with the C.D. Howe Institute.

“The way that the CERB is designed may discourage them from accepting the job or looking for any job.”

A group of experts convened by the think tank recommended the government consider extending CERB eligibility beyond the July cutoff, but turn it into an income-tested benefit for those who go back to work.

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos told a midday press conference the CERB would likely lead to another support measure because something new will be needed to create a smoother recovery phase. What that might look like, he didn’t say.

Having greater transparency about support programs would help Canadians determine if money is being spent well, and maintain the credibility of aid programs while deterring fraud, said Toby Sanger, director of Canadians for Tax Fairness.

“You would just have better designed programs,” he said. “There could be better third-party judging of how well these programs have worked or haven’t worked.”

He cited a request from his group and others for public details on companies that receive federal support, such as through the $73-billion wage subsidy program.

Federal figures showed there have now been 181,883 unique applicants approved for the wage subsidy, which covers 75 per cent of wages up to a maximum of $847 per week for each eligible employee.

The total value of benefits paid stands at $7.9 billion.

Trudeau urged companies to sign up for the wage subsidy during his opening statement, echoing his request for landlords to use a commercial rent assistance program that opened for applications this week.

That program offers forgivable loans to cover half of monthly rents in April, May and June, as long as landlords drop rents by at least 75 per cent over the same period for eligible small businesses.

Giroux estimated the net federal cost of the program at $520 million this fiscal year. The budget officer’s report released Wednesday morning put caveats on that estimate, owing to the lack of clear precedent for this kind of program.

His report said that means the assumptions about industry eligibility and uptake by landlords “rely heavily on judgment.”

Why good credit matters even if you don’t plan to borrow

Why good credit matters even if you don’t plan to borrow

By Bev O’Shea Of Nerdwallet

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Even if you don’t plan to borrow a dime, a good credit record is valuable. Think of it like a household fire extinguisher: It’s smart to have a good one even though you have no plans to use it.

And your credit can influence your life in ways beyond borrowing. Here’s why good credit is so valuable.

FLEXIBILITY IN A CRISIS, MORE OPTIONS IN GENERAL

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us nothing else, it’s that we cannot count on things going as planned. Flexibility is key.

A good credit score can help you borrow at a reasonable cost. That in turn could help you buy groceries and other necessities even as your emergency fund is dwindling.

If you use investments to help pay living expenses, as many retirees do, access to credit may help tide you over when the markets are down.

Good credit can also be useful in leasing a place to live, because landlords sometimes check credit to evaluate tenant applications. Similarly, some employers check credit reports during the hiring process (although some jurisdictions restrict using credit reports in this way).

SAVINGS YOU CAN PUT (OR KEEP) IN THE BANK

Good credit also can lower some bills. Nationally, a good driver with poor credit would pay an average of $2,506 annually for car insurance. With good credit, the same coverage would cost $1,427. Only California, Hawaii and Massachusetts prohibit credit data from being used in setting car insurance rates.

Credit-based insurance scores are also used to set homeowners insurance premiums in most states, except for California, Maryland and Massachusetts. Poor credit can increase the cost “10% to 15% typically,” says Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America. That works out to between $50 and $100 a year for most people, he notes. Renters insurance may also be higher for those with poor credit.

Utility companies often use information from credit reports to set security deposits. Georgia Power, for example, uses credit scores to decide whether customers must pay a deposit, which can be up to two times the average monthly bill for the residence.

If you do borrow money, a higher credit score can earn you a lower interest rate, and thus, lower payments. And a cash-back credit card (typically available only to those with good credit) can give you money back without you paying a nickel of interest if you pay the full balance each month.

HOW TO MAINTAIN GOOD CREDIT

You don’t have to go into debt to maintain good credit. The two biggest factors in your credit score, accounting for about two-thirds of it, are on-time payments and the amount of your available credit you use.

That means simply paying all your bills on time goes a long way toward protecting your credit. On the other hand, paying 30 days or more past the due date can devastate your score.

If you do use credit cards, paying the balance in full is the best way to manage those bills. Zeroing out the balance doesn’t hurt your credit score, saves you from paying interest and ensures you’re not using too much of your credit limit. If you can’t pay in full, try to stay below 30% of your limit.

Other strategies that may help:

_ Keep credit cards open unless you have a compelling reason to close them. Even unused credit cards help your score by raising your overall credit limit. The average age of your credit accounts also has a small effect on your credit score.

_ Ask a friend or relative with excellent credit to add you as an authorized user. That adds their credit history on the card to your credit profile. You don’t have to use or possess the credit card for this to help your score.

_ If you are uncomfortable with a credit card, consider using it like a debit card by paying the balance as soon as a charge posts. The account adds to your credit history but you prevent worries about balances piling up.

Credit scores could drop during the pandemic as people rely more heavily on their credit and increase their balances. Your score can rebound fairly quickly once you pay balances down, as long as you continue to pay at least the minimum on time. If you need help paying creditors, contact them, preferably before you miss a payment.

___________________________-

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Bev O’Shea is a writer at NerdWallet.

Airlines are searching for ways to get Canadians travelling again

Melissa Lopez-Martinez CTVNews.ca 

TORONTO — As lockdown restrictions are slowly lifted around the world, the travel industry is looking at ways to get Canadians back on board.

While airlines, hotels and cruise ships are eager to open their doors, experts say convincing Canadians to travel again will be a tough sell.

Incentives are being introduced by airlines, resorts and hotels as a way to bring aboard new passengers, according to Allison Wallace, vice-president of communications at Flight Centre Canada.

“We should see better pricing and if not better pricing better value and that can be a room upgrade, it could be resort credits, it could be on board credits for cruise ships,” Wallace told CTV News.

Air Canada recently announced revisions to their goodwill policy that will allow customers of cancelled flights due to COVID-19 the option to receive either a travel voucher with no expiry date or bonus Aeroplan miles.

The airline also promised to reduce airfare for domestic flights as it introduced its new summer schedule including domestic and international flights. However, the airline is on a long road to recovery as it has been down 97 flights from the 220 it had the previous year amid the pandemic.

Tamer Hanna is among the many Canadians who had a flight cancelled because of the novel coronavirus. Hanna’s $5,000 Italian trip was put on hold and he received a credit for the flight but said he wants a refund.

“The travel situation is not going to be the same and its really about the safety of myself and my family at this point,” Hanna said in an interview with CTV News.

Many airlines are also catering to the post-pandemic world by introducing new cleaning measures and reconfigured seating. While these measures can help ensure safer travel, McGill University business professor Karl Moore said they will likely cost more for businesses to stay afloat.

“When you take away the middle seat at best you can get the planes maybe 70 per cent full, but at 70 per cent the planes can’t make money and that’s not a viable business model for them,” Moore in an interview with CTV News.

Travel experts say the new travel incentives are enticing, but the risk remains high. With COVID-19 now a known risk, companies are no longer offering travel insurance to cover the cost if Canadians become ill abroad.

President of Travel Secure Inc. Martin Firestone told CTV News that with no coverage, travellers risk incurring high hospital costs if they catch the virus while travelling.

“Quite frankly if you’re away and that second bout or third bout they talk about hits, you have the dilemma of having no coverage and being stuck in an emergency room in a hospital and you’re paying the tab,” Firestone said.

Industry leaders said travel interest is slowly picking up again, with most Canadians interested in domestic trips.

CTV News 

 

Forced to adapt, businesses rethink how they make money

By Joyce M. Rosenberg

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK _ Many business owners are changing the way they make money as they attempt to recoup revenue lost to the coronavirus outbreak.

The changes can look subtle; for example, when owners of clothing stores decide to beef up their internet business. But often such adjustments involve an entire rethinking of the business model the blueprint that encompasses the key aspects of running a company with significant changes to staffing, technology and inventory.

For many companies, it’s a matter of survival, but for others, the changes have been a silver lining amidst the crisis.

When Big Bottom Market, a cafe and food shop in Guerneville, California, closed in mid-March, “I had to take stock of what we had and think about how we could evolve the business,” says co-owner Michael Volpatt.

Volpatt started a daily cooking show on Facebook in hopes of drawing customers to Big Bottom’s page on the online marketplace Etsy. He succeeded: Daily visits jumped 66% and customers stocked up on merchandise including biscuit mixes, coffee, preserves and T-shirts. That revenue from Etsy covered Big Bottom’s monthly rent, utilities and insurance.

The cafe, which gets business from visitors to California’s Sonoma wine region, reopened with social distancing steps May 8, selling meals and merchandise at the door. Business is down 80% from its usual pace the cafe can normally seat 40. During the week, the cafe’s business is mostly from people who live locally, but the weekends bring people from all over the Bay Area.

Volpatt doesn’t know when he’ll fully reopen the cafe but going forward he expects to get substantial business from the internet. He’s even hiring a staffer to help build Etsy sales.

Four months after launching the Velvet Window clothing store in Dallas, Amy Witt was forced to close its doors. She soon realized she’d need to adjust her approach to ensure customers came back when the store reopened.

“The forced closure gave me the opportunity to say, `what’s wrong with my business how do I fix it?”’ Witt says.

Before the outbreak, 85% of Witt’s business came from shoppers coming into the store. With the shutdown, she realized she needed to be more aggressive with social media to draw shoppers to her website; she needed revenue and to engage with her customers. She taught herself and her staff how to make Velvet Window more visible in internet searches. She picked up new customers, including some outside the Dallas area.

As she prepared to reopen May 1, Witt concluded she had to offer more services and accommodations in a retail environment reshaped by the outbreak. So she set up private shopping hours for some customers _ for example, those most at risk for complications if they contract the virus. She’s using video or messaging apps to show her fashions to others anxious about coming to the store. Curbside pickup or deliveries can also be part of the deal.

She sees all these steps as elements in a new business strategy: “It’s something we will continue to offer” even after the current crisis ends, Witt says.

Overhauling or refining a business model should be an ongoing part of running a company; even successful owners often think about making adjustments. But any crisis forces owners to reassess their business. After companies were forced to lay off staffers during the Great Recession, many turned to freelancers when they began hiring again. That saved money on salaries and benefits and gave owners more flexibility.

Business models are likely to undergo significant changes in the coming months given the damage to the economy from the outbreak. A lot of uncertainty remains about how much consumers will be willing to spend, travel, dine out and go to sports and entertainment events _ and when social distancing measures that limit business will be lifted.

Before the outbreak, D’Artagnan sold most of its high-end meats to restaurants where customers might pay $50 for filet mignon or dine on exotic varieties such as squab or quail. But with restaurants closed, half the company’s business is now from people buying meat to cook in their own kitchens or on the backyard barbecue. That means the Union, New Jersey-based company ships smaller cuts and packages of beef and chicken to consumers rather than the larger cuts and whole animals it delivers to restaurants.

“It’s a very different demand in the kind of animals people buy to cook at home instead of ordering in a restaurant,” owner Ariane Daguin says. The changes mean different procedures for butchering and packaging the company’s products.

D’Artagnan’s e-commerce business, which accounted for 10% of revenue before the outbreak, is up five-fold, says company president Andy Wertheim. The company won’t know until restaurants are operating again what their demand will be, or whether people will continue to do their cooking at home. But, Wertheim says, D’Artagnan is prepared to have a different business model going forward and increase its staff to get the work done.

The changes at some companies have come from serendipity rather than crisis. At law firms, shelter-in-place rules have forced attorneys to meet with clients over video rather than in a traditional office visit.

Attorney Katherine Miller’s work includes mediation in divorce and family law cases. She says the virus outbreak has chipped away at clients’ reluctance to hold meetings online. She plans to use that change in attitude to expand her practice.

With the use of video meetings, it will be easier to co-ordinate schedules when all the parties don’t have to travel to her office, and Miller will have less travel time when she attends meetings. And she won’t be limited to her current practice area, New York City and its northern suburbs.

“I used to think, this is going to be an uphill battle to convince people that it’s a good idea. But now because of the coronavirus, I don’t have to do that anymore,” she says.

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