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Cybersecurity issue behind ongoing closure of London Drugs in Western Canada

Pharmacy chain says no reason to believe that customer or employee data has been impacted, so far
London Drugs says all its western Canadian stores are closed Sunday, April 28, 2024 until further notice, due to an “operational issue.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nono Shen

Confused shoppers milled around the front of a London Drugs store in downtown Vancouver on Monday, some wondering aloud why they couldn’t access the store to get prescriptions or buy hair dye.

A metal gate was blocking them from the store at the corner of West Georgia and Granville streets, a security guard occasionally directing perplexed customers to a sign announcing the “temporary store closure.”

It wasn’t alone — London Drugs shut all of its stores in Western Canada on Sunday (April 28) as it grappled with a “cybersecurity incident.”

The retailer first announced the temporary shutdown just before noon, with posts to its social media accounts. At the time, it cited an “operational issue,” but has since confirmed that the closure was the result of a cyber attack.

London Drugs says they don’t believe that customer or employee data has been impacted, but that more than 80 locations across B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba remain closed.

“Upon discovering the incident, London Drugs immediately undertook countermeasures to protect its network and data, including retaining leading third-party cybersecurity experts to assist with containment, remediation and to conduct a forensic investigation,” the company said in a statement.

Pharmacists remain on standby to help customers who need to access their prescriptions. The retailer originally asked those people to call ahead to their local store to make pick-up arrangements, but said in an update Monday afternoon that phone lines had been temporarily taken down “as a necessary part of its internal investigation.”

Customers are advised to visit their local store in-person for immediate support instead.

The retailer has offered no timeline for when its stores may reopen.

London Drugs, a Richmond, B.C.-based business which opened in 1945 with a name meant to be a nod to England’s capital, sells everything from pharmaceuticals to groceries and electronics.

“We apologize for any inconvenience caused and we want to assure you that this incident is the utmost priority for us at London Drugs,” the company said in its statement.

The incident facing London Drugs comes a month after discount chain Giant Tiger Stores Ltd. reported some of its customers’ data was compromised in an “incident” linked to a third-party vendor it uses.

Over the last two years, Indigo Books & Music, the LCBO, the Nova Scotia government, the Toronto Public Library and the City of Hamilton in Ontario have also fallen victim to cyber incidents.

The country saw 74,073 police-reported cybercrimes in 2022, up from 71,727 in 2021 and 33,893 in 2018, Statistics Canada data shows.

Experts have long cautioned that cybercrimes tend to be under-reported because of the stigma, embarrassment and repercussions victims often experience.

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