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.”
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 leaving 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.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2020.
Source: – CTV News
13 Ottawa pharmacies to begin offering COVID-19 tests Friday – CBC.ca
Thirteen Ottawa pharmacies will begin offering free COVID-19 tests Friday to people who have no symptoms of the viral illness, the province says.
Last week, Premier Doug Ford announced the province would be allowing pharmacists to perform the tests in order to alleviate some of the pressures facing Ontario’s existing COVID-19 assessment centres.
Long lineups have been a major problem recently at Ottawa’s test sites, with stories of people waiting more than four hours for a throat or nose swab.
As of Sept. 25, the following pharmacies in Ottawa will be offering tests:
- Cedarview Pharmacy, 12-4100 Strandherd Dr.
- Medicine Shoppe, 19-5303 Canotek Rd.
- Rexall, 1615 Orléans Blvd.
- Shoppers Drug Mart, 1-2148 Carling Ave.
- Shoppers Drug Mart, 1309 Carling Ave.
- Shoppers Drug Mart, 1102 Klondike Rd.
- Shoppers Drug Mart, 1937 Portobello Blvd.
- Shoppers Drug Mart, 2954 St. Joseph Blvd.
- Shoppers Drug Mart, 3940 Innes Rd.
- Shoppers Drug Mart, 541 Montreal Rd.
- Shoppers Drug Mart, 455 Bank St.
- Shoppers Drug Mart, 647 Earl Armstrong Rd.
- Shoppers Drug Mart, 1180 Walkley Rd.
Friday ambitious for some pharmacies
The Ontario Pharmacists Association warned not all the pharmacies identified for testing in Ontario will be prepared to start Friday.
“It may not be [that] all stores [are] ready to go immediately as stores adjust to the necessary precautions and changes they might need to make to their workflow,” said board of directors chair Jen Baker on Wednesday.
Those precautions include proper cleaning, directional signs, making a separate space for the test and ensuring the right personal protective equipment is in place. Stores will also have to perform a pre-screening process to make sure only asymptomatic people are being tested.
“There will be funding associated with performing the COVID-19 testing in the pharmacies, so that could be used to hire additional staff…should they find that they need to, in order to accommodate the demand in the community.”
Baker said pharmacies are also busy trying to figure out how to implement COVID-19 testing and the flu shot program at the same time. She said many pharmacies are opting to do appointments for flu shots too and looking at other management programs such as allocating certain times of day for each service.
Anyone seeking a COVID-19 test must first make an appointment. More locations will be announced in the coming weeks, the province said Wednesday.
Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine candidate begins phase 3 trial – Global News
The study starting Wednesday will be one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccine studies so far, testing the shot in 60,000 volunteers in the U.S., South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.
A handful of other vaccines in the U.S. — including shots made by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. — and others in other countries are already in final-stage testing. Hopes are high that answers about at least one candidate being tested in the U.S. could come by year’s end, maybe sooner.
U.S. health officials insist the race for a vaccine isn’t cutting corners.
“We want to do everything we can without sacrificing safety or efficacy — we’re not going to do that — to make sure that we end up with vaccines that are going to save lives,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told reporters.
But many vaccine specialists question whether the Food and Drug Administration will stick to that goal under intense pressure from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has consistently presented a faster timeline for a new vaccine than experts say is adequate to fully test the candidates.
Meanwhile, testing of still another experimental vaccine, made by AstraZeneca, remains on hold in the U.S. as officials examine a safety question, even though studies have resumed in other countries.
Earlier this week, Vice-President Mike Pence urged state governors to “do your part to build public confidence that it will be a safe and effective vaccine.”
Coronavirus: Trump says his administration expects vaccines for every American by April
And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, added in the call to governors that he is confident in “a tried and true process” that has checks and balances built in, including an independent board evaluating the progress of each vaccine trial, as well as “the integrity of the FDA.”
A recording of the call was provided to The Associated Press.
Senators were scheduled to question FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Fauci and other administration officials later Wednesday about the pandemic response.
Even if the FDA were to allow emergency use of a vaccine by year’s end, supplies would be limited and given first to vulnerable groups such as health workers. Most Americans aren’t likely to receive a vaccine until sometime next year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants states to get ready now to roll out vaccinations, which will present enormous logistical challenges. On Wednesday the CDC was set to announce distribution of $200 million in congressionally approved funds to help begin setting up operations.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the COVID-19 vaccine campaign will build on longstanding co-operation between the federal government and the states on immunizations.
J&J’s vaccine is made with slightly different technology than others in late-stage testing, modeled on an Ebola vaccine the company created. Unlike the other three vaccines that started late-stage testing in the U.S., it requires only one shot, not two. Despite a later start to testing than some of its competitors, Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer, told reporters that the study was large enough to yield answers possibly by early next year.
Associated Press writers Lauran Neergaard and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Johnson & Johnson begins giant trial testing one-dose COVID shot – BNN
Johnson & Johnson has begun dosing up to 60,000 volunteers in a study of its COVID-19 vaccine, marking the first big U.S. trial of an inoculation that may work after just one shot.
J&J became the fourth vaccine maker to move its candidate into late-stage human studies in the U.S. If enrollment goes as expected, the trial could yield results as soon as year-end, allowing the company to seek emergency authorization early next year, should it prove effective, according to Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels.
“A single dose could be a very efficient tool to combat the pandemic as it is faster acting,” he said Wednesday in an interview. Animal models and early human studies showed that one shot of its vaccine generated a strong immune response in just 15 days, he said.
The final-stage study will pit the vaccine against a placebo injection, with a goal of showing whether it reduces cases of moderate to severe COVID-19, “the most important part of the disease to prevent,” Stoffels said. J&J is also looking at whether the shot curbs the virus’s spread.
The company’s shares rose as much as 2.3 per cent in New York.
The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company published detailed trial plans on Wednesday. Frontrunners Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc have already done the same in a broader transparency push.
“It is likely that multiple COVID-19 vaccine regimens will be required to meet the global need,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a statement. J&J’s vaccine “may be especially useful in controlling the pandemic if shown to be protective after a single dose.”
The study is nearly two months behind those of Moderna, working with NIAID, and Pfizer, partnered with BioNTech SE, whose final-stage trials started in late July. Pfizer has said it could get efficacy results by the end of October. Those vaccines use two-dose regimens.
J&J’s vaccine could offer an advantage in distribution over those inoculations, which require vaccination sites to ensure recipients return for their second dose. The company also said its vaccine can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for three months, far longer than the Pfizer vaccine that requires deep freezing for long-term storage.
“In countries where there is less health-care infrastructure, it can be much better used at a very large scale,” Stoffels told Bloomberg. “Single dose, easy to use in the field are the main characteristics that make it different.”
Years in the Making
The J&J product is made from a cold virus, called an adenovirus, that’s modified to make copies of the coronavirus’s spike protein, which the pathogen uses to enter cells. The altered virus can’t replicate in humans, but it induces an immune response that prepares the body for an actual COVID-19 infection. The vaccine was developed with researchers at Harvard University who have spent years working on the adenovirus vaccine platform, which is also used in J&J’s Ebola vaccine.
The health-care behemoth is running the study in conjunction with NIAID and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority at sites in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and other countries. It will include significant representation among those over the age of 60, as well as minorities at disproportionate risk of becoming infected, including Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaskan Native peoples, according to a statement.
J&J has also agreed to collaborate with the U.K. on a separate phase 3 clinical trial that will test a two-dose regimen of the vaccine in multiple countries, with two months between each dose, according to Stoffels. That booster could be critical to providing long-term protection, he said.
The decision to begin the final-stage trial was based on data from an earlier human study that showed a single shot was safe and stimulated a strong immune response, Stoffels said.
Like other final-stage vaccine trials, J&J’s study is monitored by an independent board of doctors and statisticians who wait for a certain number of coronavirus cases to accumulate before looking at the data.
The trial aims to accumulate 154 cases for a final analysis. If the vaccine turns out to be more than 90% effective, the study could produce results after just 20 cases, Stoffels said. He said that scenario is unlikely, though.
J&J’s trial appears to have stringent criteria for declaring early success that prevent a readout based on very short-term results in patients with relatively moderate symptoms. Based on discussions with U.S. regulators, the data won’t undergo its first analysis until at least half of participants have been vaccinated for two months or more.
The study will also have to accrue at least 5 severe cases for an early readout. And to be considered a success, the absolute number of severe cases needs to be half of that in the placebo group, along with other benchmarks, according to documents posted on J&J’s website.
Still, the study will take less time to complete than it would with two doses. Scientists will start counting cases just 15 days after patients get their inoculations or placebo shots.
Despite accelerated timelines, Operation Warp Speed won’t cut corners in confirming vaccine safety or efficacy, National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said on the Tuesday media call. “That absolutely will not be allowed to happen,” he said.
Stoffels said J&J will continue to clinch new manufacturing partnerships to meet its 1 billion dose production goal for 2021. The company has already kick-started at-risk manufacturing in hopes the shot will prove successful in the clinic.
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