Canada Revenue Agency suspends online services after cyberattacks

Many of the hacked CRA accounts were targeted as part of a broader ‘credential stuffing’ attack

The Canada Revenue Agency has temporarily suspended its online services after two cyberattacks in which hackers used thousands of stolen usernames and passwords to fraudulently obtain government services and compromise Canadians’ personal information.

A total of 5,500 CRA accounts were targeted in what the federal government described as two “credential stuffing” schemes, in which hackers use passwords and usernames from other websites to access Canadians’ accounts with the revenue agency.

The decision to suspend CRA’s online services comes at a time when many Canadians and businesses have been using the revenue agency’s website to apply for and access financial support related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government is hoping to reinstate online access for businesses on Monday, according to a senior government official. That is when companies struggling due to the pandemic can start to apply for the latest round of federal wage subsidies.

It wasn’t immediately clear what impact the suspension of services will have in terms of other federal benefits, however, including the Canada Child Benefit and Canada Emergency Response Benefit for those affected by COVID-19.

The revenue agency was also vague in terms of what victims of the attack will have to do to get their accounts reinstated after it disabled them to prevent further fraud, saying only that letters will be mailed to those who have been affected.

At least one victim says she has yet to hear anything from the government after someone hacked into her CRA account earlier this month and successfully applied for the $2,000-per-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit for COVID-19.

Leah Baverstock, a law clerk in Kitchener, Ont., says she first realized her account had been compromised and contacted the revenue agency herself when she received several emails from CRA on Aug. 7 saying she had successfully applied for the CERB.

“The lady I spoke to at CRA, she’s said: ‘This is a one-off,’” said Baverstock, who has continued to work through the pandemic and did not apply for the support payments.

“And she told me a senior officer would be calling me within 24 hours because my account was completely locked down. And I still haven’t heard from anybody.”

READ MORE: Thousands of CRA and government accounts disabled after cyberattack

Baverstock expressed frustration at the lack of contact, adding she still does not know how the hackers accessed her account. She has since contacted her bank and other financial institutions to stop the hackers from using her information to commit more fraud.

“I am quite concerned,” she said. “Somebody could be living under my name. Who knows. It’s scary. It’s really scary.”

Many of the hacked CRA accounts were targeted as part of a broader “credential stuffing” attack in which more than 9,000 accounts that Canadians use to apply for and access federal services were compromised.

Those hacked accounts were tied to GCKey, which is used by around 30 federal departments and allows Canadians to access various services such as employment insurance, veterans’ benefits and immigration applications.

“These attacks, which used passwords and usernames collected from previous hacks of accounts worldwide, took advantage of the fact that many people reuse passwords and usernames across multiple accounts,” the Treasury Board of Canada said in a statement.

One-third of those accounts successfully accessed services before all of the affected accounts were shut down, said the Treasury Board, which is responsible for managing the federal civil service as well as the public purse.

Officials are now trying to determine not only how many of those services were fraudulent while the RCMP and federal privacy commissioner have been called in to assess the scale and scope of personal information stolen.

The government warned Canadians to use unique passwords for all online accounts and to monitor them for suspicious activity.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says more than 13,000 Canadians have been victims of fraud totalling $51 million this year. There have been 1,729 victims of COVID-19 fraud worth $5.55 million.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Canadian Revenue AgencyCyberfraudfraudhackers

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. salmon farms challenge activists’ demands for site closures

News reporting also unfair, inaccurate and distorted

Gratitude is a great thing, what are you grateful for?

‘I want to say a heartfelt thanks to Steven Cahill for all his hard work over the years’

UPDATE: North Island Green Party nomination still to be determined

Moen says all issues should be viewed through environmental lens

COVID-19 has caused many changes for Port Hardy Fire Rescue so far this year

Port Hardy Fire Rescue’s first and second quarterly reports for 2020 were reviewed by council.

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

B.C. VOTES 2020: Few solutions offered for ‘out of control’ camping

B.C. Liberals, NDP spend millions as problem keeps growing

Most Read