Chinese military members face charges in Equifax breach impacting

By Tara Deschamps

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Four members of the Chinese military are facing charges for allegedly breaking into Equifax Inc. systems in 2017 and stealing data connected with Canadians, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed Monday.

An indictment filed by the department says the breach of the Atlanta-based credit monitoring company’s system compromised a “colossal repository of sensitive personally identifiable information.”

The breach affected the accounts of at least 19,000 Canadians, hundreds of thousands of Britons and 145 million Americans. The hacked information included names, addresses, social insurance and credit card numbers, usernames, passwords and secret question and answer data.

The four Beijing residents that the indictment alleges were involved in the hacking Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke and Liu Lei are facing charges of computer fraud, economic espionage and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The indictment says that over several weeks the group used a software vulnerability and encrypted communication channels to carry out the breach. They allegedly made use of 34 servers located in nearly 20 countries and wiped log files on a daily basis to reduce the likelihood that they would be caught.

“To further disguise their infrastructure, the conspirators obtained access to the servers located outside of China from reseller hosting services, who pursue remote computing services from other providers and then lease those remote compute services to others,” the indictment alleges.

“The conspirators attempted to disguise their unauthorized access to Equifax’s online dispute portal by using existing encrypted communication channels within Equifax’s network to send queries and commands, which allowed them to blend in with normal network activity.”

Equifax, the documents said, did not notice the hackers’ activity for more than six weeks.

The document also accuses the men of stealing trade secrets from the company.

Equifax reached a US$700 million settlement last year with the U.S. government over the data breach, earmarking most of the funds for consumers impacted by the incident.

Meanwhile, the Canadian privacy commissioner’s office released an investigation last year that found Equifax had poor security safeguards, was retaining information too long, had a lack of accountability for Canadians’ information and offered limited protection measures offered to affected individuals after the breach.

Asked by The Canadian Press on Monday about potential moves the federal government’s public safety ministry and privacy commissioner will make given the new developments, neither outlined any action.

They instead discussed investments in cybersecurity and previous investigations into the incident.

The RCMP said it is maintaining “situational awareness of this investigation and (is) prepared to assist upon request” with an ongoing investigation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. or other international law enforcement partners.

Charles Finlay, the executive director of the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst organization at Ryerson University in Toronto, called the U.S.’s handling of the situation  “aggressive,” but said he didn’t expect the Canadian government to follow suit.

“My suspicion is that the Canadian government will likely wait to se how the U.S. proceedings go,” he said.  “The Equifax breach was much much larger in the U.S. than it was in Canada.”

The case is particularly important, he said, because the hackers gained a great deal of information about potential targets and can access more information by leveraging that stolen data. The situation is even more serious because it can involve a state trying to advance their national security interest, he added.

Finlay doesn’t think those whose information was exposed can be “made whole again,” so he said action like the U.S. is taking is warranted.

“And I think we can expect to see more of this,” he said. “It’s not a game. People’s lives are at a stake and we are now beginning to see governments operate in that way.”

A look at how workplaces can prepare for possible coronavirus outbreak

By Cassandra Szklarski

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Companies wary of what an infectious outbreak could do to their workforce and bottom line are revisiting contingency plans as the new coronavirus continues to spread.

Marie-Helene Primeau of the Montreal-based risk management company Premier Continuum says she’s spent recent days fielding questions from several firms seeking guidance on what to do if the rapidly spreading illness that originated in China threatens the health of employees and customers.

“Everyone’s looking at their state of readiness,” says Primeau, whose company provides training and advice to a range of firms including banks, insurance companies, government agencies and those in manufacturing.

“They’re actively revisiting the plans, but they’re not necessarily stockpiling masks.”

Health officials in Canada have repeatedly stressed that the risk to public health remains low. Seven cases have been identified in Canada, while worldwide, the illness known as 2019-nCoV has sickened more than 37,000 people and killed more than 800, nearly all in China.

Nevertheless, Canadians are being urged to remain vigilant against infection, with medical experts reminding the public we’re still in the throes of flu season and that good hygiene is advised wash hands frequently, cough and sneeze into tissue or your upper sleeve, and don’t touch your face.

Disaster management expert Amin Mawani says workers and managers alike should take this time to combat misinformation, repeat hygiene tips, be clear on sick leave policies and prepare for the possibility of mass absenteeism.

If an outbreak hits, employers should encourage unwell workers to stay home, Mawani says, but a key step to mitigating an outbreak’s impact is to keep people from getting sick in the first place.

“You can’t buy traditional insurance in a sense, but you can prepare for it by spending some money planning for it and stockpiling certain things _ masks and whatever else you might need,” says Mawani, academic director of the health industry management program at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto.

A possible outbreak has critics refocused on provincial sick day allowances in Ontario, where the Progressive Conservative government offers most workers three days of unpaid leave each year and allows bosses to demand a doctor’s note.

Health-care workers say that can make it hard for some to stay home when necessary, and if sick people work in high-risk settings _ such as food services, long-term care facilities or childcare spaces _ the impact can be significant.

“A lack of paid sick days results in children and adults transmitting infections at school and work, exacerbating contagion throughout the province,” the group Decent Work and Health Network warn in an open letter to Premier Doug Ford.

Mawani agreed employers should consider whether they’re prepared to ease sick day restrictions if the virus strikes staff, noting hardline policies also threaten morale and loyalty.

Workers should also consider coming up with their own protective measures, he adds.

“In some ways employees can take the initiative, they can say: ‘Look, I can easily do this at home,’ or ‘I can do this on the weekend. Why do I need to come in tomorrow?”’ he says.

“And employers should be willing to listen during this phase so even if (workers) don’t start working from home now (the company) can have plans ready.”

John Yamniuk of the Toronto-based consulting firm DRI Canada says there are ways to limit person-to-person infection at the office, even those with open layouts, communal spaces, and shoulder-to-shoulder computer stations: Is there room to leave a vacant spot between workers? Is there an unused meeting room that can be transformed into an alternate work space?

“If you’re in a call centre environment, (think about) providing extra cleaning services, providing individual headsets for folks so they’re not sharing keyboards or things like that,” adds Yamniuk, based in Calgary.

Primeau’s advice includes making sure contact information for staff and partners are up-to-date.

She also encourages managers to run through “a tabletop exercise” _ in which each person discusses their role during an emergency and all agree on how best to respond to various scenarios.

And don’t assume you can just rely on a temp agency if a lot of people call in sick, she adds, because you can’t guarantee availability or loyalty.

“Temporary backup was something that was brought up when we were talking about the (H1N1) pandemic 10 years ago but the thing is that those individuals will also be sick as well,” she says.

“It’s more (about) focusing on what’s key. What’s urgent to perform? What are the critical activities, rather than calling upon a temp.”

Warning of collapse in B.C. condo market

The excerpted article was written by Ross McLaughlin, CTV News Vancouver

VANCOUVER — There are dire warnings that the condo real estate market in B.C. could collapse unless the province steps in to stop it.

It all has to do with skyrocketing insurance rates. And some condo buildings are unable to get insurance at all, putting owners at risk of losing their financing and being unable to sell their properties.

Zafar Khan had an offer on a Cloverdale condo he was selling, and the deal was to close Feb. 3. But at the last minute it all fell apart, as the buyer pulled out of the sale.

“I found out the strata ran out of insurance,” said Khan.

He said he had no idea, and only learned about it later from the buyer’s real estate agent, Sevin Atilla.

“We found out the strata’s insurance came up for renewal and they were not able to renew it,” said Atilla, who works at Oakwynn Realty.

“I don’t blame the buyer at all,” Khan said.

Banks won’t finance uninsured buildings and that’s what happened with the loan the buyer had secured.

“As soon as they found out there was no insurance in place, they retracted the mortgage approval,” explained Atilla.

CTV News reached out to the property manager, Crossroads Management Ltd. The company said it tried five different insurance brokers, all of which were unable to find an insurance company to insure the complex.

Crossroads said it’s still looking.

Owners are now at risk if disaster strikes; their banks could pull their financing and they will be unable to sell their properties.

“This affected our deal and we will see more of these deals collapsing in the future,” said Atilla.

“This is something no one had foreseen,” said Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium and Homeowners Association of B.C.

Gioventu knew skyrocketing insurance rates and high deductibles were coming as insurance companies pulled out of B.C.’s high real estate market and struggled to keep up with claims from global disasters, but buildings unable to get insurance at all is something that no one expected.

“This will collapse our real estate industry because no one will be able to get mortgages and there will be no buyers and no sellers,” Gioventu said.

Gioventu knows of a handful of buildlings currently unable to get insurance, and said there could be more out there.

And massive insurance premiums are adding to the pressure.

The strata president of one Burnaby condo told CTV News their annual insurance premium has quadrupled, from $200,000 a year to $810,000, and they can no longer afford to pay it.

High premiums coupled with extremely high deductibles are also resulting in massive increases in maintenance fees or special assessments.

“This is not a small number of buildings now. We’re now looking at several hundred buildings throughout the Lower Mainland that are seeing such dramatic increases,” said Gioventu.

Doug Whicker, a strata president of a New Westminster condo complex facing a 40 per cent insurance premium increase, has sent a letter to Premier John Horgan asking for intervention. He says it’s reached a crisis and suggests that B.C. set up a non-profit strata insurance corporation similar to ICBC.

“Immediately. We can’t wait,” said Whicker.

“Government intervention is necessary and it’s imperative,” added Khan.

CTV News reached out to B.C. Finance Minister Carole James, who has acknowledged the problem.

“We think there are good opportunities to be able to talk with the industry, to talk with condos, to talk with insurance companies, and look at how we can address this issue,” she said.

Robert de Pruis with the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s western office told CTV News the IBC has been in contact with insurance brokers, underwriters and condo groups and is planning to hold regional meetings across the country to address the condo insurance issues — including one in B.C. in March — to try to find creative solutions to address the problem.

If you’re a condo owner reading this and are worried about how to protect your investment, there’s little you can do except to try to find insurance to cover high deductibles. But without a master condominium insurance policy, you’re out of luck.

The buildings that are being hardest hit are those that are the most expensive: buildings with a high number of recent claims and strata corporations that have failed to keep up with maintenance and repairs.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says it’s a complex issue that won’t be solved quickly.

However, for Khan and others in his situation without insurance it’s an emergency.

“If my lender finds out they’ll pull the mortgage,” he said.

Can you cancel a flight due to fear of Coronavirus?

Pat Foran  | CTV News Toronto

TORONTO — Travellers are growing increasingly nervous and concerned as the novel Coronavirus continues to spread globally.

People working in the travel industry tell CTV News Toronto that they are receiving frantic calls from people who have already booked vacations and business travel, but are wondering if they can cancel.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook with people wondering if they can cancel trips,” said Martin Firestone, who works with Travel Secure, a company that specializes in travel insurance products.

The answer, he said, is usually no, unless the Government of Canada issues a travel advisory to an area, which advises people to avoid all non-essential travel to that area.

If an advisory is issued, then a passenger, who has bought trip insurance, would have their trip cancelled, and they will be refunded, Firestone told CTV News Toronto.

“You have to have bought trip cancellation insurance to a destination that the government of Canada issues a travel warning for non-essential travel to – that’s the trigger that will allow you to get a refund,” he said.

Firestone said that even if someone has travel insurance, they would not get a refund if they are cancelling a trip because they are concerned about the virus, but there is no advisory.

“There is no insurance yet for fear of travel – it just doesn’t exist,” he said.

Firestone said that Canadians should know their government is keeping an eye on the situation. He said that while it’s important to be cautious, people with planned trips should not be too concerned.

He said he advises people to communicate with their airline or travel company or insurer.

“If the Canadian government is allowing you to travel somewhere then believe me there is not going to be any issues,” he said. “If they have concerns they would create a travel warning which would trigger trip cancellation.”

There is, however, a newer insurance product offered by some companies called “change your mind” insurance, which would let someone cancel a trip for any reason they want, but it can be expensive and does come with some limitations.

Westhill Hires Daniel Loosemore to Lead Expansion Into Canada

ATLANTA–(Business Wire)–Westhill is building a marketplace for property & casualty restoration and mitigation insurance claims. After making great strides in the US market, Westhill is now expanding their team in pursuit of growth into the Canadian market. The ecosystem that Westhill is building enables insurance companies to successfully alleviate friction in the claims process, by using cutting-edge technology to enhance the claim experience. Creators of the cloud-based platform are pleased to announce the appointment of Daniel Loosemore as their President of Canadian Operations.

“I’m excited to infuse the Canadian market with collaboration and transparency that no one else can offer in the insurance market today.”

“Dan brings a wealth of knowledge and market intelligence that is invaluable to us. He has an incredible network and proven ability to solve problems for insurance carriers,” said George Jones, CEO of Westhill. “He is the perfect candidate to lead Westhill’s growth in Canada and continue building our robust network of carriers and contractors. Our team is delighted to have him join us.”

Loosemore has always been connected to construction and insurance, bringing 20+ years of experience in property restoration. In his last role at Crawford Contractor Connection, Dan was responsible for taking an established managed repair network model in the US and scaling into Canada. During his transition from District Manager to Vice President of National Sales and Operations, Loosemore effectively grew and scaled his team from one (1) employee to fifty three (53) nationally, to service the customer base in both official languages (English and French). He then took this valuable experience into consulting and has been working with businesses to execute on strategic imperatives like growth, margin efficiencies, performance management and brand experience.

In addition to his achievements in the managed repair space, Loosemore exited Woodhouse Contracting, and stayed on throughout the earn-out to help the business continue to scale, rebrand and become one of the largest contractor brands in the country. Dan is a proven strategist who leads with passion in all his endeavors. Often touted as a leader who is highly inclusive and collaborative, his professionalism and values align well with the core values of Westhill.

“Westhill brings a progressive technology approach to a market which has historically been well behind the customer needs and consumer expectations,” expressed Dan. “I’m excited to infuse the Canadian market with collaboration and transparency that no one else can offer in the insurance market today.”

Westhill has been recognized in the US as an industry thought leader in Insurtech. Building upon the local successes in 2019, Westhill is now focused on embedding local talent and regional expertise in Canada to better serve their partners.

About Westhill

Westhill Inc. provides digital solutions for the property & casualty (P&C) insurance industry, focused on delivering an exceptional claim experience. Westhill leverages smart technology to connect insurance carriers, contractors and policyholders, providing customer choice and removing inefficiencies from the claims process. Advocates in the power of connection, Westhill believes all successful experiences need a foundation grounded in transparency and shared value, principles that are woven throughout each facet of Westhill’s business model.

Website: www.westhillglobal.com

View the experience: Westhill Video

Source: Business Wire

Cost of Love in Canada 2020: Nearly 1 in 5 Canadians Admit to Financial Infidelity

Cost of Love in Canada 2020: Nearly 1 in 5 Canadians Admit to Financial Infidelity

TORONTOFeb. 5, 2020 /CNW/ – One in five Canadians are committing financial infidelity by keeping a secret around money or spending in their relationship, according to a new Cost of Love survey from Rates.ca.

Money misrepresentations are most common among millennials, with almost 30 per cent of younger Canadians admitting to financial infidelity, and men are more likely (19 per cent) than women (13 per cent) to lie about money. Canadians who are dating or engaged are more likely to have a financial secret than those that are separated or married.

Three in ten (31 per cent) Canadians are hiding purchases they make from their significant other. Almost one-third are concealing their poor credit score, 21 per cent have hidden cash, 14 per cent have hidden bank accounts, and 10 per cent have a secret line of credit or a long-term loan.

“Hiding a poor credit score or a large sum of debt can have consequences in the future. Especially for partners buying their first home or financing a car. Being transparent and taking the right steps to manage debt or correct poor credit can prevent disappointment and further financial woes,” said Sara Kesheh, Vice President, Money, Rates.ca.

The survey also revealed that nearly half (47 per cent) of those in a relationship, say the value of their financial secret is $1,000 or more. Almost one in five admitted that their financial secret is $10,000 or more.

Dealing with Financial Infidelity

Half of Canadians with a financial secret believe nothing would happen if their significant other were to discover the secret.

Another 22 per cent say the worst consequence would be to fight and find a solution, two per cent feel it would result in a break-up, and only one per cent say it would result in divorce.

Whether you’re getting married, making a major purchase together or combining finances with a partner, Kesheh offers expert advice to avoid disagreements over money.

  • Talk about debt: Working as a team to manage the debt can help pay down the principal faster and accrue less interest on the balance. That won’t be an option for everyone; however, ignoring the debt could turn a small problem into a big one.

  • Create a budget: Track your spending to form an accurate budget. Be aware of how much income is coming in versus how much money is being spent. From there, pinpoint areas where you can cut back and create a plan for paying off the debt.

  • Use financial resources: Carrying a balance on a standard credit card can run the risk of the debt growing faster than it can be paid off. Many resources can help make the debt more manageable, including low-interest credit cards or balance transfer options. The key is never to skip a minimum payment and to pay more when you can.

  • Be a team: If you are on the reverse end of the secret, try to be patient, constructive, not critical, listen to what your partner needs and, most of all, be supportive.

The survey also revealed:

  • Of the four per cent of Canadians who are engaged, 24 per cent have a financial secret. Of the 11 per cent of Canadians who are dating, 23 per cent have a financial secret. Only 14 per cent of those separated or married are hiding their finances.
  • Married or separated couples are more likely to have financial secrets below $1,000, at 46 per cent and 53 per cent respectively.
  • Couples who are dating or engaged are more likely to have secrets valued at $1,000 or more, at 59 per cent and 53 per cent respectively.
  • Among Canadians with a financial secret: eight per cent have a secret credit card, nine per cent have secret investments, seven per cent have credit rewards points they haven’t told their significant other about, and five per cent have a secret payday loan.

To review the findings, visit Rates.ca.

About the Survey
An online survey of 1600 Canadians was completed between January 3 – 6, 2020, using Leger’s online panel. The margin of error for this study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

About Rates.ca 

Rates.ca is Canada’s one-stop-shop for the best rates on insurance and money products. Rates.ca publishes rates from 30+ insurance providers so that shoppers can find the best rates for themselves. Use the site to find the best rates for auto, home and travel insurance, mortgages, and credit cards. Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Rates.ca is located at 360 Adelaide Street West, Suite 100, Toronto, ON, M5V 1R7

SOURCE Rates.ca

Related Links

https://rates.ca/

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