Police probing Bell Canada data breach; up to 100,000 customers affected

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Police are investigating a new data breach at Bell Canada, which says hackers have illegally obtained customer information, primarily subscriber names and e-mail addresses.

BCE Inc.-owned Bell confirmed Tuesday that up to 100,000 customers were affected by the hack, which comes about eight months after hackers accessed nearly 1.9 million Bell customer e-mail addresses as well as 1,700 names and phone numbers.

“We apologize to our customers and are contacting all those affected,” said BCE spokesman Mark Langton. “There is an active RCMP investigation of the incident and Bell has notified appropriate government agencies including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.”

Mr. Langton said that, in this case, hackers accessed names and e-mail addresses and “in some cases phone number, user name and/or account number.” He added there was “no indication that any credit card or other banking information was accessed.”

Several customers on Tuesday reported receiving an e-mail from John Watson, executive vice-president of customer experience at Bell, informing them that some of their customer information was illegally accessed.

Mr. Watson apologized for the breach and advised affected subscribers: “It is good practice to change your passwords and security questions frequently and to regularly review all your service and financial accounts for any suspicious activity.”

Even non-financial information such as usernames can be used by hackers to attempt to break into other accounts owned by the same person, and e-mail addresses can provide a potential list of targets for social engineering scams known as phishing, in which hackers try to convince people to click on malicious links or attachments.

Mr. Langton said Bell – which is Canada’s largest communications company and has almost 22 million combined wireless, television, internet and home telephone customers – works closely with police and other government agencies to address cybercrime, adding, “we have successfully supported law enforcement in past prosecutions of hackers.”

Read the full story over at the Globe and Mail.

This story was summarized by Canadian Fraud News Inc.