The recent hack at credit monitoring agency Equifax will change the way these kinds of incidents are typically handled, according to a Cambridge, Ont., security expert.

Mark Sangster, vice president and industry security strategist at eSentire, said a data breach of this scale will have an impact on the way corporations and governments deal with information security issues.

"Equifax will become the catalyst that will accelerate the kind of regulatory requirements we need to [prevent] a similar breach from happening in the future," he told The Morning Edition's Craig Norris.

Few Canadian laws

Unlike in Europe and the U.S., Sangster said Canada does not have the same breach notification laws that would mandate these companies to alert their customers whenever there is an incident. He said Alberta is the only province that actually has any regulations and rules around notification.

"What we need to do is put rules in place that require very timely, quick response-- in less than 72 hours," he said. "As soon as we find out about an event, that means we can take defensive measures and protect ourselves."

Be vigilant

In terms of what the everyday consumer can do to protect themselves, he urges Canadians to be vigilant, looking out for any financial activity that looks strange and flagging it with your financial institution.

Sangster also says people should think carefully before giving out information, even for seemingly-innocuous purposes, like clothing store coupons and commercial email subscriptions.

"That [information] actually is often a Trojan horse," he said. "It is precious and it can lead to more valuable assets like your banking credentials."

His advice is:

  • Only give out personal information where it's absolutely necessary.
  • Have an email address dedicated to online activities, separate from your ongoing personal communication.

Equifax Canada is confirming with customers that only Canadians who have had dealings in the United States are likely to be affected by the massive hack.