A person looks at a Canada Revenue Agency homepage in Montreal, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Thousands of CRA and government accounts disabled after cyberattack

Federal authorities scrambling for answers

Federal authorities were scrambling for answers over the weekend after revealing that hackers used thousands of stolen usernames and passwords to fraudulently obtain government services — with the extent of the damage still unclear.

More than 9,000 hijacked accounts that Canadians use to apply for and access federal services have been cancelled after being compromised in what the Treasury Board of Canada described as “credential stuffing” attacks.

“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 federal department said in a statement.

The 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.

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.

READ MORE: Twitter racing to unravel mystery cyberattack

Officials are now trying to determine how many of those services were fraudulent.

The GCKey attack included thousands of Canada Revenue Agency accounts, through which Canadians can access their income-tax records and other personal information as well as apply for financial support related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 5,500 CRA accounts were targeted through the GCKey attack and an earlier “credential stuffing” scheme, the Treasury Board said.

“Access to all affected accounts has been disabled to maintain the safety and security of taxpayers’ information and the Agency is contacting all affected individuals and will work with them to restore access to their CRA MyAccount,” the Treasury Board said in a statement.

The department did not reveal how many of the CRA accounts were compromised or the cost of the suspected fraud, but said federal officials as well as the RCMP and federal privacy commissioner were conducting separate investigations.

It also did not say how Canadians in receipt of services such as the Canada Child Benefit or Canada Emergency Response Benefit for those affected by COVID-19 would be affected.

Revelations of the GCKey attack follow earlier concerns and reports from some Canadians that they were being targeted by hackers during the pandemic, with some reporting thousands of dollars in CERB payments for which they did not apply.

READ MORE: To get the latest news on Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada and the world delivered to your inbox daily, click here.

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 

CanadaCoronaviruscybersecurity

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

Just Posted

Subsea fibre optics running from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal Communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13.
Subsea fibre optics running from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13. (Black Press Media)
CityWest to refresh subsea fibre optics project

Fibre optics project to run cable from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii then south to Vancouver

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More calls come in for Cullen’s removal as NDP candidate

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs demand Cullen’s removal. Ellis says, There’s no place in B.C. for racism

Kelly Lynn Whitney has been acclaimed as the successful candidate on Oct. 16, in the Village of Port Clements by Election. Seen in photos Kelly Whitney-Gould is pictured putting finishing touches on “Ms. Gnomer’s Home 4 Wayward Folk.” (Kelly Whitney-Gould/Submitted photo)
Kelly Lynn Whitney acclaimed in By Election

Village of Port Clements By Election success

BC Liberal Party candidate for the North Coast Roy Jones Jr. will hold virtual face-to-face meetings for North Coast communities on Oct. 18. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
BC Liberal Candidate Roy Jones Jr, will meet constituents virtually

Face to face conversations will be held on Oct. 18 for North Coast communities

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Charges laid against Prince George man, 39, in drug trafficking probe

Tyler Aaron Gelowitz is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read