Friday, July 27, 2012

Data Breaches Are on the Rise: Be Prepared, Advises Equifax Canada

TORONTO, Ontario - July 27, 2012 - Marketwire - Identity thieves are constantly inventing more destructive ways to obtain consumers' personal information. Data compromise in both private and public sectors are on the rise, as evident in the recently announced Elections Ontario privacy breach.

While it is impossible to completely prevent identity fraud or theft, consumers can take preventative measures to reduce their personal risk and may consider placing a fraud prevention alert on their credit file. This preventive alert informs creditors that the consumer's personal information may have been lost or stolen and suggests that they validate that the credit application is legitimate. To place a fraud prevention alert on your credit file, call Equifax toll-free at 1-800-465-7166.

Consumers who are aware of potential threats, and who take preventive steps to protect their personal information are significantly less likely to become victims. In addition to placing an alert on your Equifax credit file, here are some of the easiest and most effective ways to combat identity theft:

...Review your credit report regularly - Check your credit report at least once a year. For your free report from Equifax, visit

...Handle your financial accounts and transactions online - Consumers who frequently monitor their accounts online are most likely to uncover fraud the fastest.

...Check your bank, credit card or other financial account web sites for suspicious or unauthorized activity.

...Avoid mailing cheques to pay bills; instead pay bills online and take advantage of new remote deposit cheque imaging services and online banking sites. Install and regularly update firewall, anti-spyware, anti-virus and browser security software.

...Limit the information you share on social media sites - Consumers who have used social media tools for at least five years are twice as likely to be victims of identity theft.

...Never provide personal information unless you initiate the contact.

...Do not click web links when responding to e-mails or text messages, rather go to the site directly.

...Do not respond to automated phone messages or callers prompting you to dial a number or provide personal information to resolve a bank account issue.

...Shop on secure web sites - Online retailers should display an approved security symbol and the transaction should be conducted on an encrypted site.

...Reduce unnecessary access to your personal information wherever possible - Do not carry Social Insurance cards or unused credit cards. Be aware of your surroundings when transacting in public. Cover your keypad and any screens that display sensitive data.

About Equifax

Equifax is a global leader in consumer and commercial information solutions, providing businesses of all sizes and consumers with information they can trust. We organize and assimilate data on more than 500 million consumers and 81 million businesses worldwide, and use advanced analytics and proprietary technology to create and deliver customized insights that enrich both the performance of businesses and the lives of consumers.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Equifax operates or has investments in 17 countries and is a member of Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500® Index. Its common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol EFX. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Commissioner Cavoukian investigates Elections Ontario's massive loss of voter data

TORONTO, July 17, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, is investigating a privacy breach at Elections Ontario involving the personal information of an unprecedented number of individuals - up to 2.4 million Ontarians.

On July 5, the Commissioner's office was advised of the loss of two USB keys containing the unencrypted names, home addresses, dates of birth, and gender, as well as whether or not the person had voted in the last election - all included on Ontario voters' lists. The Commissioner advised Elections Ontario to notify the public of this breach as soon as possible. An investigation was immediately launched, with the full cooperation of Elections Ontario, to examine how the breach could have occurred and the existence of privacy policies and procedures in place at the province's election agency.

The investigation is expected to be completed in several weeks, at which time the Commissioner's findings will be released publicly. As part of her report, the Commissioner will be providing guidance that organizations can use to limit the possibility of this type of breach happening in the future.

Commissioner Cavoukian Quotes:

"I am deeply disturbed that a breach of this extent, the largest in Ontario history, involving millions of individuals, could happen at Elections Ontario - the agency charged with protecting the integrity of our electoral process."

"Personal information is the currency in which Elections Ontario trades. It is my expectation that personally-identifiable information will not be stored on USB keys, laptops or other mobile devices - full stop. That is the message I have repeatedly given over the years. If it is absolutely necessary, to transfer personal information to a mobile device, it should first be de-identified or protected with strong encryption."

"Given the magnitude of this breach, impacting millions of Ontarians, the loss of electors' personal information will of course raise concerns of identity theft. Resources are available on my website,, to learn how to protect your personal information, and what to do if you become a victim of identity theft."

About the Information and Privacy Commissioner

The Information and Privacy Commissioner is appointed by and reports to the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and is independent of the government of the day. The Commissioner's mandate includes overseeing the access and privacy provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as well as the Personal Health Information Protection Act, which applies to both public and private sector health information custodians. A vital component of the Commissioner's mandate is to help educate the public about access and privacy issues.